Caring for Developmentally Disabled Adults

What is the job like? What sort of person does well?

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a few years, and sent an application in recently. I have an interview next week.

I really have no experience in the field at all. What is it like? I worry that I’m not right for it. I would like to do something that I can feel good about. I don’t feel very good about what I do now – advertising. Yick.

My health is less than good. Does the job require physical strength? I’m also not a very social person, would a bubbly personality be better?

I’d be doing this job in addition to my current “icky” job. So it isn’t like I’m taking some big economic risk. But if my aim is to help some people out, I’d like to feel like I actually can.

Too many variables for a simple answer.

Developmentally disabled people (as opposed to strictly physically disabled people) can come in a broad range of personal abilities. Often DD folks are also physically disabled, so some lifting or support is required. Other times, DD folks are fine, physically, and simply need someone to help them remember to get up to go to work, remember to turn off the stove after cooking, etc.

Are you looking at a large residential facility? A group home? A position as a part-time care-giver to a person who lives alone or with family? The answers to those questions will affect whether you are more likely to need to engage in lifting.

As for personalities: they are people (with issues). Some of them are delightful to be around; others can be cranky or whiny. You do not need to have a bubbly personality, yourself, but you should be prepared to interact with their personalities. They will often have amazing insights into the world–buried among hours of repititious and sometimes tedious observations about everything that they encounter in their day. You cannot ignore them, (aside from being very rude, you are liable to miss important information), but you may need to have an ability to filter their conversation as they ramble on.

(There may also be DD folks who do not talk much, but none of the ones in my life ever shut up. :smiley: )

Don’t let me scare you off before the interview. Take the time to go to the interview and meet the people you would be serving. You may decide that you either can or cannot deal with that environment, but you are better off sampling it rather than deciding based on a message board response. (And even if you are not sure that you could do it full time, you may find that it is fun for a few hours a week.)

I have experience working with physically disabled adults, so YMMV, but I can give a few comments.

Most importantly, do you like people and does hanging out with just your client sound like fun? You don’t have to be a completely social person, but you will spend time talking. You might work closely with other assistants/care providers.

Your duties will vary according to the needs of the person you are working for - you might help with bathing, preparing food, shopping, cleaning, supervising, etc, as well as providing companionship. You might also spend a good part of your time reading or watching tv.

You’ll be doing the same sort of duties as a child care provider. If you can handle having your patience tested, and you don’t mind doing things that might be a little icky (helping with going to the toilet, for example), you’ll do fine.

The job can be physical so you would need to only work with clients who are unlikely to need physical assistance - you wouldn’t want to work with someone who likes to run away or someone who you might have to lift. In other words, you need to know your limits and stick to them.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet lots of new people and you’ll grow to really care for them. It’s truly rewarding - it feels really good to make someone smile.

However, there are always situations that will be difficult - you’re working with people. Not all mentally (or physically) disabled people are sweet or nice! If you are good at dealing with difficult people, you can turn it into a better situation, but you will need to learn your limits and when you need to quit.

So, if you like to talk to people, have some patience, and have a good attitude, give it a try.

Thanks for your replies.

I’m still really wavering. At one moment I think I’d do great, I’m patient… then I think of the times I’ve flipped out at work because people are being so blasted dumb. What it really is is that they can’t be bothered to try.

I have years and years of experience working with difficult people! My secret is to stun them with honesty.

Maybe me being not a big talker is a plus? They can do all the talking.

As far as the job listing, the title was “residential coordinator” it sounds like it would be going to peoples’ homes, or a group home and helping out. I’m hoping to work one or two days a week in the early a.m.