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Life Skills & Learning Center February Update

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Advocates
February 16, 2022

Inclement Weather Policy | Operations UpdateNursing Corner | On Site | Community Based Day SupportsEmployment Services

An Update from Advocates Life Skills and Learning Center

2021 has finished! There was so much goodness surrounding us this past year, but we also faced some significant challenges.

Day Services experienced a significant COVID-19 surge from the end of 2021 into 2022. This affected 50% of our staff, as well as at times upwards of 75 individuals being monitored for exposures. This was a hard time for so many of us, but we continue to have all the tools and resources in place and an amazing group of staff that is committed.

We have updated our COVID-19 policies to align with the CDC, however there are areas that our funders have enforced that continue to be more restrictive. The reasoning for this is due to the provision of services within a congregate care setting, and mask wearing for individuals not a requirement for those with medical and or social concerns. These updated policies have been sent in an email.

Many of you are still waiting to resume services, and I am grateful for your patience.  Like most day program providers, we continue to be in staffing crisis, and that is the reason many of you are still home. We are excited to have welcomed in new staff, who have settled in well, but we are still recruiting for open positions. I ask that you contact your local representatives and community leaders about the support needed for human services staff.

        

Lastly, thank you to our families, guardians, and caregivers for the wonderful donations and kind messages we have received over the last year in support of day services.  On behalf of the team and I, we are so grateful.

There are better days ahead, and we are thankful you are on this journey to those better days with us.

 

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Bardasz
Vice President of Developmental and Brain Injury Day Services

 

Inclement Weather Policy

Day Services may close during severe weather conditions to ensure the safety of all individuals.

  • A decision to close or the delay the opening of the programs will be made two to three hours prior to the regular start time, if possible.
  • The Manager or designee will be in touch via a text or a call.
  • The phone greeting at the Life Skills and Learning Center will be updated to note either a delayed start and or a closure due to weather conditions by 6:30 a.m. Updates will also be posted on the Advocates website and social media pages.

 

Operations Update

Update brought to you by Stephen Robery, Director of Operations

Many of you have received letters from MassHealth regarding expiring PT-1s. Please know that this is an automated letter generated by the state. We assure you that all PT-1’s for your loved ones are updated and current. Please disregard these automated letters.

The state also continues to accommodate transportation requests for our members, although there are significant delays and challenges, as they too are experiencing a staffing crisis. Although they are working on reducing the need for double runs, there are still trips that have approval. We appreciate your flexibility as pick-up and drop-off times may vary to what they were pre-pandemic.

As of January, we are resuming tours onsite for families to learn more about Advocates Life Skills & Learning Center. Tours will occur after program hours when members have gone home for the day. We adhere to all policies and safety precautions for visitors.

 

Nursing Corner

Update brought to you by Emily Donahue, Senior Healthcare Coordinator

As we all know, COVID-19 continues to be a presence affecting our daily lives. Please remember to keep your loved ones home if they are showing any signs of illness and notify the program. We continue with our daily screening in the morning, promote mask-wearing, and maintain infection prevention measures including frequent cleaning. A fun training video was also developed to review concepts such as social distancing and mask-wearing.

We encourage all individuals to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and receive a booster shot. Boosters are available two months after receiving the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or at least five months after completing the primary series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If your loved one receives a booster dose, please send an updated copy of their vaccination card to the nursing department. Please reach out if you need assistance identifying vaccination locations.

As we begin a new year, we’d like to remind everyone of the requirement for annual physicals. All individuals must have a physical or wellness visit within the last year to continue as active participants at the day program. This can include a telehealth visit. Please notify us when a visit has occurred, so a copy can be filed at the program.

 

On Site

Update brought to you by Kathy D’Errico, Director of Developmental Day Services

Our friends in onsite programming had a blast this holiday season! Our annual Halloween costume party kicked off the season, complete with a built-in haunted house. We enjoyed trick or treating throughout the building, playing Halloween games, listening to music, and dancing.

During holiday spirit week we dressed for different themes like Winter Wonderland, Holiday Pajamas, Holiday Helpers, and Ugly Sweaters Day. Along with our lovely attire, we celebrated the holiday with four action-packed days of activities ranging from arts and crafts projects to games to science experiments as well as sensory-based fun.

If it weren’t for our amazing staff, none of this would be possible. To recognize their dedication, we held a staff appreciation week complete with daily gifts and a luncheon. Here’s to another great year!

When we’re not celebrating special holidays, we have fun with our weekly themes which are incorporated in our curriculum-based programming through daily News to Me articles and videos, trivia and games, social skills, hygiene, arts and crafts, sensory projects, and science experiments.

          

Creative and engaging Zoom programming continues three days a week through mid-April with Scott, our rehabilitation aide.

 

Community Based Day Supports

Update brought to you by Eric Dwinnells, Senior Case Manager

Our annual Halloween trip to Salem, aka “Witch City,” took an exciting turn when the owner of Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery (a wax monster museum) recognized us and offered us free admission! We had a great time exploring the history of movie monsters knowing that none of them were going to jump out and get us.

The big news of the season was the opening of our art exhibit at The Weston Public Library! Our friends created paper mache masks representing different cultures and eras. The masks were on display in the gallery for the entire month of December and were very well received. In fact, we are proud to announce that we will have another exhibit in Needham this July. Visit www.Advocates.org/WorldofMasks for more photos!

      

Framingham Parks and Recreation is one of our newest volunteers sites! We also continue our volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, Unity Farm, the Upton Food Pantry, the Humane Society, and Meals on Wheels.

When not volunteering, our friends remain engaged in skill-building activities such as job readiness, social skills, boundaries, money management, turn-taking, and behavior management. They also work within the program on inventory, stocking, shredding, and delivering mail in preparation for volunteering or job opportunities.

 

Employment Services

Update brought to you by Colleen Graham, Employment Program Manager

95% of our friends participating in Employment Coaching are currently working in environments that are meaningful and uplifting! We’re grateful to have strong relationships with so many businesses and continue to reach out to new employers.

Melissa kicked off 2022 celebrating 12 years of employment with the Cheesecake Factory in Framingham! Her coworkers and managers ended her shift on January 12 with congratulations, a song, and, of course, some cheesecake to celebrate. Melissa continues to grow in her role, adapting easily to new COVID-19 requirements like rolling silverware in the napkins 
and additional cleaning and disinfecting tasks.

Wearing her uniform brings Melissa joy at work! When asked about her coworkers, she stated, “The people here are good.” Her manager Jessica shared, “Working with Melissa is a very good experience—one that has been mutually beneficial.” Jessica added that Melissa has adjusted easily to the new COVID-19 regulations, continues to take on new tasks, and needs minimal supervision to get her job done.

 

About the Life Skills and Learning Center: Through our Day and Employment Services at the Life Skills & Learning Center, Advocates staff partners with adults who have disabilities and their families to customize experiences and activities uniquely suited to each person’s interests, skills, needs, and goals. Learn more at www.Advocates.org/LSLC.