Direct Support Professionals Appreciation Month

September 10, 2009

September, 2009 has been proclaimed Direct Support Professionals Appreciation Month by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and will be celebrated at events throughout the county honoring the contributions of direct-care workers.

Karen Brown, chair of the Fairfax Long Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC), announced the kick-off of the month-long celebration by saying "Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) play a variety of roles in our community, from personal care assistants to nursing home staff to job coaches. In their various roles, they provide support to individuals who are elderly or living with disabilities."

"The September appreciation events will not only recognize the critical role that DSPs play in helping people live in the community as independently as possible," continued Brown, "but will also bring the public's attention to the value that DSPs bring to the lives of everyone in our community."

Throughout September, representatives from the long term care community - including assisted living facilities, adult day care facilities, day programs, PCA training programs, group homes, and in-home care providers - will host DSP recognition events in each magisterial district of Fairfax County. At every event, a member of the Board of Supervisors will read a copy of the proclamation designating September as DSP Appreciation Month, and the host site will educate those attending about the role DSPs play.

"This work isn't easy," said Shareen Miller, a DSP from Falls Church, when she accepted the Proclamation at a ceremony earlier this summer. "It is physically hard and can be emotionally draining. But I love it. All Direct Support Professionals do."

Miller is excited that members of the Board of Supervisors will be attending events in their districts. "They will get to see first-hand the work that we do. And they'll get to see first-hand the challenges we face, such as long hours, low pay and lack of health insurance. But they'll also get to see the difference we make in the lives of the people we assist."

Media Availability

September 23 - 2 p.m.
Supervisor John Cook (Braddock District)
Braddock Glen Adult Day Health Care Center
4027-B Olley Lane, Fairfax, VA 22032
Contact: Carrie Brill - 703-978-0502
September 18 - 10:30 a.m.
Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (Hunter Mill District)
SPecially Adapted Resource Club (SPARC)
Southgate Community Center
12125 Pinecrest Road, Reston, VA 20191
Contact: Donna Goldbranson - 703-338-6185

In addition to the local proclamation, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to set aside September 14-19, 2009 as National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week. The Senate resolution creating the recognition week states that, among other things, the Senate "recognizes the dedication and vital role of direct support professionals in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities of all ages" and "appreciates the contribution of direct support professionals in supporting the needs that reach beyond the capacities of millions of families in the United States."

The Senate resolution also points out that the majority of DSPs serve in home and community-based settings, and acknowledges that "there is a documented critical and growing shortage of direct support professionals in every community throughout the United States."

The U.S. Census estimates that by 2030 Virginia's population of people aged 65 and older will increase by 132.7% while the traditional care giving workforce will increase by only 15.9%. In order to ensure that care will be there when needed, it is critical that policy makers take note of the continuing need to recruit and retain this valuable workforce.

DSPs help their clients bathe, dress, eat, and negotiate a host of other daily tasks. They are a lifeline for those they serve, as well as for families struggling to provide quality care.

"The Direct Support Professionals at the Alzheimer's Family Day Center in Fairfax have been a big factor in helping my mother feel welcome this summer when she could no longer stay alone in our home," said Myles Nienstadt, Chairman of the LTCCC's Workforce Committee. "They do so much for her but my heart is especially warmed every morning when I see them at the center greeting my mother with their joyful smiles and a full cup of hot coffee already prepared for her."

The Long Term Care Coordinating Council encourages agencies and individuals throughout Fairfax County who employ Direct Support Professionals to hold appreciation events of their own in September. A copy of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' proclamation may be downloaded from the LTCCC Web site.

For more information, visit the LTCCC Web site or call Bob Eiffert at 703-324-2544, TTY 711.


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