From Sept. 13 – 19, Nishna Productions Inc. will honor their staff members during Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.
Direct Support Professionals work with individuals who have disabilities by assisting their clients, helping them reach goals, and becoming involved in their community.
NPI is in its 46th year of operation and operates 24 homes with seven of those in Shenandoah. Other locations include one home in Clarinda, and the rest are located across Mills, Montgomery, and Fremont Counties.
“All of our homes, except one, are what we call ‘waiver’ or ‘HCBS Waiver’ homes,” said Emily Martin, development specialist for Nishna Productions Inc. “Home and Community-Based Services waivers are a Medicaid program that allows for people to receive long-term care services and supports in their home and community, rather than in an institutional setting if that is what they prefer. To qualify for the HCBS program, we must demonstrate that the waiver services will not cost more than institutional services, ensure the protection of people’s health and welfare, provide adequate and reasonable provider standards to meet the needs of the individuals, and ensure that services follow an individualized and person-centered plan of care. Waiver homes are homes like any other in the community. If you were to walk into a waiver home, you should not be able to tell that the residents there are receiving services. To simplify all of that, we simply call them residential sites or homes.”
Martin said NPI has one house that operates as a group home. She said group homes may house more residents and are governed by a different set of policies and receive funding from other sources.
One of the many roles of a direct support professional at NPI is a Supported Community Living Specialist. An SCLS assists individuals in developing the skills they need to be as independent as possible daily.
Kathy Wells of Clarinda has worked for NPI as an SCLS for two years.
Wells said when she started with NPI, she worked one on one with clients but has since then moved into working in two different waiver homes in Shenandoah.
As an SCLS, Wells helps clients with their individual needs, cooks, cleans, does laundry, grocery shops, and schedules and transports clients to appointments.
“I like to cook,” said Wells. “So I cook them breakfast every morning, and I make their lunches.”
Wells said before she shops for groceries; her clients will give her a list of special things they might want for lunch and will give her ideas of what they want to eat for other meals.
“My group of people love homemade pizza,” said Wells. “I cook like my grandma taught me, mashed potatoes and gravy and stuff like that, and they love it. I have been known to make big batches of homemade ice cream, and we sit outside and have a barbeque and an ice cream party.”
Wells said she is like a mom to her clients. She said some of them tease her and call her mom, or at the age of 62, some of them call her grandma. She said with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been difficult to be herself as she is used to giving hugs and high fives.
“They will come to find me to talk, and I’m very upfront with them and honest with them,” said Wells. “I love working with them.”
Wells describes working for NPI as working for a big family.
“They’re like family to me,” said Wells. “I will sit there after work sometimes just to talk to some of them or see them because maybe I haven’t seen them all day. I feel like I’m pretty privileged to work for NPI. It’s a nice job that is very rewarding.”
Wells said she finds herself wondering how her clients are doing on her days off, and they will run-up to her to tell her about their weekends when she returns on Monday. She said that is another aspect of being like a big family.
“If somebody has a bad time and they need to have a shoulder to cry on and some sympathy, they’ve got it,” said Wells.
Wells said seeing her clients accomplish a goal brings great joy for her.
“We’ll find ways to assist them, “ said Wells. “They're not always like all of us, they can’t do certain things, and they have limitations. It’s nice to see it when they push through those and grow.”
Wells said it takes a compassionate person to work for NPI and good communication is vital within the home.
“The good Lord sent me where I needed to be,” said Wells. “I feel very proud to work for Nishna Productions.”
Wells said Shenandoah has been very supportive of NPI, and it was very nice for Shenandoah Mayor Dick Hunt to sign a proclamation recognizing Sept. 13 – 19 as Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.
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