Area Residential Care

Gabby Waddick Period Two

What does A.R.C. do

Through a variety of community-based residential and vocational programs, Area Residential Care helps people with disabilities become active, participating members of the community. Giving people with disabilities choices about where and how they live, work and socialize. Offering staffed homes, jobs in the community, and other programs to help people with disabilities gain a sense of independence, and belonging.

Why A.R.C.

My 23 year old sister suffers from severe hydrocephalus, a condition that requires her to have 24/7 care. After Megan graduated from Hempstead in 2010 she didn't have a lot of social interaction outside of our family, her social worker suggested that we try ARC. Megan loves ARC, she goes "work" two times a week and participates in Dayhab once a week. Because of the positive effect ARC has had on my sisters life, I wanted to get involved and impact other peoples lives who have physical and intellectual disabilities. This is my seventh year as a one on one Special Olympic peer helper and event volunteer, and some of my past athletes have graduated and gone into programs with ARC or Goodwill. Seeing some familiar faces I hadn't seen in a while was just another plus of ARC.

Employees Participate in Vocational Programs

For the sake of the clients privacy I was not allowed to take any photos of employees besides my sister at the holiday party (below). The pictures above are from ARC's website.

Volunteer Responsibilities

Snowball Dance

My first task was chaperoning the ARC Holiday party, which provided dinner, a photo booth, and DJ to the employees as they came to celebrate another year a working. After doing the chicken dance enough times to practically become a chicken, serving dinner, and helping with coat check, the night was ended. Two hours passed faster than it had ever passed before. Below are pictures of Megan, my boyfriend Cedric, and I at the Snowball Dance.

DayHaB

DayHab is one of the programs offered to clients at ARC, offering more of a social based interaction with others than work based as in the vocational programs. My first day of DayHab was spent with six core clients and about 7 more that floated in and out throughout the lunch period. Terry (who prefers to be called Rocky) instantly found a place in my heart as the first thing he said to me as I walked into the room was, "My name is Rocky and I can yodel. Here I'll show you." *Insert some very loud, very energetic yodelling* The rest of the day followed with dancing, singing (I was informed by Steve, a man with down syndrome, that I was not a good singer), and watching a movie. By the time I went to my next activity after volunteering, the clients had me exhausted.

Life Choices

Life Choices is a program for the older clients of ARC, the ones who are retired and ready to relax. The room is filled with the most comfortable chairs and couches, calm blue tones, and tons of games and activities to take advantage of. The staff gave me mixed feelings in the beginning, I believe there are one or two staff who are there not to care for the clients but to do the absolute bare minimum and receive a paycheck, however my judgements were based on only 6 hours over two days in this particular room. Most of my tasks included a craft on the first day, and then chatting and reading to clients the next day.

Amy, a woman in her mid to late fifties was sitting in the corner of the couch when I first walked in, and none of the staff were really interacting with her. I asked Jennifer, one of the staff, what her name was and she told me that it was Amy, but that she didn't talk to anyone really, as she could communicate but with only short responses. Amy had her eyes surgically removed years before due to a long and painful chain of infections to the point of damaging her eyes beyond repair, and while she could hear she used a hearing aid and still had trouble hearing. Amy has no family to care for her, as her parents put her in the program years ago and haven't seen her in more than two years. It's because of these disabilities that the staff often let her sit and only got her up to go to the bathroom. I picked out a cat magazine, (who doesn't love kittens?) and read to Amy for about an hour each day I was in Life Choices. I was hoping for a response from her, even a simple head shake. I received none, Amy sat still both times I read to her, and did not respond to my questions.

It wasn't until the last five minutes of my last day at ARC that I finally got a response from Amy. I was hugging the clients on my way out, thanking them for letting me visit, and telling them I would try and visit again, I went to sit next to Amy to tell her I was leaving. As I got up from the couch Amy grabbed my arm, so I sat down next to her, and she put her head and my lap and while she cannot physically cry she whimpered and repeatedly said no. Which of course, being the emotional baby this clientele makes me, caused me to tear up too. When I had rubbed her back enough to calm down I finally made my way out, which is when Jennifer told me that Amy has never been emotionally caring for anyone in the way she had displayed. Which of course made me start the waterworks as I went straight to the Human Resources to get my official long term volunteer application.

Interview with Jennifer

On my last day I interviewed Jennifer, a staff member who has been working at ARC for the past four years. She joined ARC just for a job when she started, but it's become so much more to her. "I can come into work with the worst mood, and leave here with a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation, there's no such thing as leaving in a bad mood here." Jennifer said they don't get a lot of volunteers at ARC but if they do it's usually the parents of the clients, generally older people who want to help out with something amazing. Jennifer works in all of the areas of ARC, vocational, DayHab, Life Choices, and the households, so she interacts with more of the clients than the average staff or volunteer. Ending the interview Jennifer commented that working at ARC is so much more than a job to her now, and much more like a family.

Americans Disabilities Act

Focused on employment, public services, public accommodations, and communications the Americans with Disabilities act is a huge impact on society. It's responsible for the handicap parking you see in parking lots, wheel chair ramps in buildings, and other accessibility changes. I think this relates to ARC in a major way, because of the fact that ARC focuses on all of these things with disabled clientele, and makes a huge effort to interact with in the community and make sure older people with disabilities are not overlooked. They provide employment through their vocational program which gives real pay checks to workers, events to participate in, transportation, housing, and a living, thriving community to people.

Empathy

Empathy, the ability to understand and share feelings of another, is one of the sociological connections I made because it's hard to work with disabled clientele. It's difficult, sometimes depressing and often very frustrating to be one of the workers who comes in to work every single day and deals with this type of clientele. I think you really have to be empathetic to relate to how you would feel if you were in their position and I'm about to care for yourself. I think there's a fine line between empathy and pity in this type of situation I don't anyone who wants to be pitied everyday of their life, they want to be treated as normal I think that's one of the key factors to interacting beneficially with disabled people.

Minority Group

A minority group, a group of people who because of physical or cultural differences are singled out and often unfairly treated. Because not a lot of Americans are exposed to people with disabilities on a regular basis often their are seen as taboo. Often this leads to them seeing themselves as discriminated against and a low feeling of self worth. Sometimes I see this in the way my sister acts, she's very blunt and will say stuff like, "I can never do that, probably because I have hydrocephalus" about stuff like school dances, even though she's allowed to go she would feel out of place and not welcome. We should make everyone feel welcome in our community, even though we've come a long way from years ago when we would practically shove disabled people into institutions, we have a long way left.

Final Thoughts

All in all this experience was more than worth the time I put into it. I have become a regular volunteer at ARC and it's opened my eyes a little bit more to the disabled community and how older disabled people can still be active int eh community after leaving school. I highly recommend that everyone get involved with people of varying abilities, even if it makes you uncomfortable at first because they can open your eyes to a world much brighter than yours. Just getting involved in peer helping with school is an awesome way to interact with our peers. If you're looking to help out in ways outside of school click the link below.