Frontline Testimonials

Incredible People Making Personal Sacrifices for Others

All textual stories below were collected from Utah DSPs in 2021. This has been their experience with the crisis of care. With wages increasing across the nation frontline workers supporting people with intellectual disabilities are in crisis. Lower skilled, less stressful work opportunities are now readily available at a substantially higher wage and with better benefits. Many Direct Support Professionals, being rational people, are acting in their and their families best interest and leaving for higher paying jobs and less stressful work. This migration to higher paying jobs coupled with the national staffing crisis is placing those stalwart employee under incredible stress.

Nicole's Story

The shortage in staffing has affected me in all aspects. I am working over 18-24 hour shifts with little to no sleep day after day. I am constantly thinking of how to make a schedule and how I am going to make it work because it is not possible for me to continue to do this alone. Currently as I am typing this, I am working a grave and will have to return in a couple of hours leaving me with only 3 hours of rest until I must work a 10-hour shift.  I have had no staff able to help me or all the staff I have left are exceeding their own limits. Due to that, I am working to the point of my body shutting down and making me physically ill on shift. I have had to refuse to drive my individuals to preferred activities due to not getting sleep, I do not feel comfortable to transport individuals in my vehicle because my senses are not at its best to safely provide transportation. My individuals have not been able to attend home visits with their family because there are no staff able to transport. With the lack of staffing, I have struggled emotionally in feeling exhausted, burnt out, irritable, and overwhelmed to where I need to give myself a couple of minutes to regroup before breaking down and crying with how exhausted I am and how much my body is hurting. I am not able to give my best, because I have not felt my best. I have honestly felt like I am just a body breathing at the house. My relationships have been affected by this staffing crisis, I am not able to be at home with my family, I am not able to take care of my daily house needs since once I am home, I must try and sleep for whatever minutes I can. I have not had any time for myself, I don’t remember the last time I was able to have a good night’s rest or day off just to regroup myself.  I have spent more time at the residential home then in my own personal house. I have worked more hours than I have ever had to work my entire time at our company and as a residential manager. I am not my best self at this time, I cannot provide the best care at this time because I am not even able to take care of myself and needs right now because I am constantly having to work. That is how the staffing crisis is currently affecting me and things need to change. We need staff.

 

I love to help the individuals; I love to be the person to assist and help them achieve their goals and show them the potential that they have. I enjoy being the support and the person they are able to go to when they feel like they can’t keep going. When these individuals get to go on activities and experience new things, the joy and happiness that they display on their face is the reason why I am still here. These individuals need someone to be there for them, to fight for them, and to not give up on them. I have worked insane hours because I lead by example. Everyday I tell my individuals to never give up and to always try, which has kept me from giving up. These individuals need us, my individuals need me, and they trust me. That is why I am still here.

With many people who I have talked to and tried to recruit, everyone has said that if our company increased wage way more they would apply and be willing to choose our company over another Job. Our company is an amazing job with a great purpose, but people need to pay bills, and should get paid enough for the dedication and work that we put in everyday. . .

~Nicole, Direct Support Professional/Manager in Utah

Kasey's Video

Kasey is a very dedicated person. She was ANCOR's DSP of the year for the state of Utah in 2020. The staffing crisis is placing a tremendous load on our frontline workers. They are making heavy personal sacrifices to hold the system together. This crisis is being squarely placed on their shoulders while the support system crumbles around them. They stay because they care deeply about the individuals they support. In many homes across the state of Utah, they are close to a breaking point or have already broken. That is why providers are having to give notice and consolidate homes. These DSPs have been dedicated through COVID quarantines and are now suffering through the staffing crisis. It has been a tremendously heavy load and gets heavier as we lose more and more staffing support. They need immediate help.

Kim's Video

Kim is a manager of a home for developmentally disabled males in Price, Utah. Kim lives about 30 minutes outside of Price but kept getting called back to Price to fill shifts in his home. He finally just moved his camper to Price so he could be closer to the crisis. Kim has been sacrificing his life and family to support other people. Kim treats his employees well and ensures they can take the time off they need. He said, "I am biting the bullet so they can take the time off they need for their stuff. The alternative is they quit and I would have to do it anyway." In spite of Kim's willingness to let his staff take needed time off he is still suffering from high turnover rates. Kim said he should be working between 36 to 40 hours a week and now he is lucky if he doesn't work 80 hours a week or more. "I am a pretty strong person but eventually I am going to have to do something. Eventually, I am going to burn out."  We need to help great people like Kim who are bearing the heavy weight and brunt of  this staffing crisis. Without dedicated people like Kim the whole system would be destroyed.

Brandon's Story

Imagine being blind. Now imagine being blind because your birth parents burnt your corneas when they poured bleach into your eyes as an infant. This was how John began his life. I first met John in April 2021. I was nervous. . .John was dropped off with no bed sheets, no bath towel, no hygiene products, and without many other essential items. . . On John’s first day he was so excited to be in our company that he called his adopted parents to share his excitement. To his disappointment, neither of his adopted parents answered. The next day we were told by his adopted parents that they do not want anything to do with John. . .Imagine telling a 16 year old that his adopted parents didn’t want to be his parents anymore. John had his birth parents pour bleach in his eyes, moved around foster homes, and then was dropped off at a program in a city he’s never been to. All of that floated around in my head as I formulated how I, a stranger that has known John for 2 days, was going to have this discussion with an abused 16 year old with disabilities.

In [our industry], many people think we do the teaching and the clients do the learning. It’s the other way around. John has taught me so many lessons. . .John has taught me how to positively move forward. . .John has grown so much with his time being in our company.

John has been through hell and I don’t think his actions when he is upset represents who he is as a person. John is an amazing young adult. He has struggles, but who wouldn’t after everything he has been through? John somehow finds light in his life. He smiles and jokes often. He even makes jokes about his own blindness. There is one activity that brings more happiness to John than anything else. That is scootering. How someone that is blind found a way to scooter is beyond me, but John found a way. Scootering is his escape. John seems to forget about all of his past as long as he is able to go to the skatepark often.

[Our company] has faced a large staffing crisis. When we are understaffed, John can’t go to the skatepark because we don’t have the staff to take him. After everything that has happened to John, he still is one of the most innocent, positive, and happy people I know. Our staffing crisis has taken a toll on every staff member. . .although the staff are hurting, the clients we serve are hurting the most. The staffing crisis has affected me emotionally because I see first hand how it affects the clients we assist. John hasn’t been able to go to the skatepark as often because of low staffing which then I have to drive out to the house to help calm him down. One reason I stay with our company is because it’s worth it to see John’s face light up when I tell him we can go to the skatepark. . .The main reason I am working through this crisis is because I understand the challenges that these clients face. I know this because I grew up with my own disability. Luckily, I had the support of my family to help me through my disability. My family gave me the support, patience, and care I needed and now it’s time I return that for someone else’s child. Taking care of the clients at the home I manage is personal to me.

This is one story I shared. [Our company] is a family of many people like John with many stories of their own. We are family and family stays together. . . Someone with the past of John deserves a happy ending. Please help us with our staffing crisis. We need your help so we can create a happy ending to the stories of the clients we serve.

~Brandon, Direct Support Professional/Manager in Utah

Jazmin's Story

We have staff that have been around for many years and have built the consistent care for the individuals. This plays such a big factor in how the individuals progress. Families rely on us to be the voice and guardians of their children. When staff aren’t available or completely burnt out we simply can’t keep up mentally with the care that is required. Staff has to put their lives on hold to cover 100+ hours to ensure that each of these individuals is cared for. If staff are stressed and overworked the standard of care drops dramatically and that isn't fair to the individuals or their families.  Typically we are able to take a day to ourselves or a day to heal injuries. Right now there is no time to do that. . . Our vacations are unheard of because there just isn’t enough staff to maintain the proper ratios of supervision. In my 6 years with [our company] I have NEVER seen it this bad or had so much stress in my job. . . I used to be excited about getting new individuals, now I instantly go into panic mode trying to figure out how in the heck I'm going to make it work. I will take on many more challenges than I probably should if it means that an individual is happy or staff are in a good place. This however takes a toll on my own mental wellbeing when I take the bulk of the weight from these intakes.

I’m here because the individuals that we serve may not have the abilities to do the everyday things that we take for granted. Some of the individuals at [our company] don’t have anyone else to care for them in the way that they need and some don’t have anywhere else to go. I refuse to be another person that gives up on these guys and gals.

My favorite thing about [our company] is the individuals and seeing the progress that they make each day. Being able to watch the “first times”, whether it is the first time they independently ask for a drink or the first time they get a job. These individuals have so much heart and compassion that honestly the world forgets about. There is so much that the individuals have taught US, more than we have taught them.

 

...I work with a great team and it kills me to see how many managers and administrators and leaders are just struggling so hard to stay afloat. Sometimes, I don’t think any of us get paid enough to do what we do. Especially during the pandemic, we were the frontlines for these individuals. We never gave up on protecting our individuals even though that meant WE had to go to highly populated stores to get their groceries, WE had to explain to individuals why they couldn’t go out into the community, WE were there when they got sick, WE stood by and worked in a home where Covid was present, WE scrubbed and disinfected all day every day to keep these guys safe. Outside of the pandemic and during, WE are the ones that the individuals take out their frustrations on, whether it is verbally or physically. But at the end of the day WE stay calm and help them to continue to make progress.

~Jazmin, Direct Support Professional in Utah

Russell's Story

This staffing crisis has made it so I’m stretching myself far too thin. I’m working 50-60 hours a week to try to manage the day services. I have been trying to maintain a community based settings structure at my program and it’s falling apart. The lack of staff is causing more behaviors and more logistical issues than ever before.  Mentally I’m on the verge of leaving and I’m burnt out. The money rarely supports the amount of stress I deal with and I can only imagine the strain it has on my staff.  All of my staff look to me to solve problems but without enough people the solutions won’t happen. My individuals are struggling too. . . They want jobs and community involvement but without the staff to support it they often times just end up sitting at home or at the building. I can’t maintain what I’ve helped build here and it is demoralizing. . .

I struggle mostly with realizing that people don’t care enough about these individuals and that their support isn’t essential in our society.

... I am really good at this job, especially in the tough situations.  I realize I’m probably on a sinking ship but they need me...  If I can’t make it work then no one can.

My favorite thing about [our company] is the relationships I’ve built. I have made some of my closest friends at this job. Most of the people that come here are genuine and caring. Being able to work here is a blessing most days. Also the intrinsic rewards of this job are great.

 

~Russell, Direct Support Professional/Manager in Utah

Houston's Story

The staffing crisis has affected me a lot. With being a manager I basically live at the house being understaffed. I’ve gained weight and have not been living healthy. It’s hard to stay on a diet when you are working 16hr- 24hr shifts and messing up your sleep schedule. Most meals end up being fast food because I’m exhausted and it’s late at night and I have only a few hours until I have to get up for another shift. I can’t work out like I used to do and barely have the energy to make it through each shift. I don’t have a social life to speak of anymore due to always working and spend less time with family. I basically get to tell my family goodnight as my only interaction with them. It has affected the individuals and their families a lot as well. One of my individuals is low functioning and his mom has health problems and can’t travel to visit him. So we have to rely on home visits normally. Unfortunately with lack of staff we have not been able to set up a transport with staff. It makes the individual depressed and causes [challenging] behaviors...

I’m still here because I’m trying to make the world and individuals lives a little better. Most of the individuals at [our company] have had really difficult and tough lives.. I try to live by the golden rule of treat others the way you’d like to be treated. If I was in a individuals shoes how would I feel seeing my manager and friend who I’ve worked with for years just up and leave me because they weren’t being paid enough or it was too tough to be around me? I’d feel terrible and not feel like I’m worth it and deserve to be happy and live a meaningful and purposeful life. I’d lose hope short and simple. Even if my life takes me somewhere else down the road I want to make sure that I make these individuals lives better... I love this line of work and I feel that I have a purpose to work with these individuals.

My favorite thing about working for [our company] is seeing the improvements staff make in the individual's lives... It’s the little things each day that the individuals improve on. Whether it’s waking up on time for them to go to work on their own or brushing their teeth without help... Those little improvements make my day worth it...

The most frustrating thing about working at our company would be staffing... Since I became a manager I’ve had numerous cases of being understaffed. I’ve seen a lot of great staff leave [our company] pursuing jobs with a higher wage because they weren’t being paid well enough to be working overtime at lower pay than a fast food worker...

It’s really demoralizing for veteran staff to hear about current wages... a Chipotle recently opened up and they are offering a 15.00 an hour starting salary. That’s the starting wage for a manager. The fact that a high school student can work a job making burritos and make more than a person who manages a house of special needs individuals is depressing. Many staff and managers love our job and look forward to improving the lives of these individuals but as in every job if you work too often you’re going to get burned out. It’s hard to stay cheerful and upbeat when your working 80+ hours a week with minimal sleep and no personal life. It’s really hard on the managers especially, because at the end of the day if the house doesn’t have staff willing to work [overtime] then the managers are picking up the slack and are basically living at the house.

~Houston, Direct Support Professional/Manager in Utah

Aaron's Story

Overall, the staffing crisis has affected my relationship with my fiancé the most. I am unable to take time off. I am working daily (10-24 hour) shifts. After a shift, I go home, sleep for a few hours and then get up and go back to work. After about 40 hours at work, I am unable to think clearly and have been continuously exhausted, both mentally and physically. Whenever I try to find someone to cover a shift, or even just a 2nd staff for a few hours, it wears on me emotionally and I feel like no one truly cares.

I truly care about our individuals. I work with 3 individuals and 2 of them are diabetic. Without me, they probably would not be able to survive. They are higher functioning individuals, but managing their diabetic needs is a challenge, even for someone that does not have a disability.

 

If it weren’t for us staff that chose to stick around through this staffing crisis, these individuals would not have a place to live...

~Aaron, Direct Support Professional/Manager in Utah

Brodie's Story

For multiple months we have seen the effects of the staffing crisis creep up. Leaders that I have surrounded myself with have been saying “we will figure it out” for over a year now when COVID protocols first hit. Myself and others are now at a loss for how we will “figure it out”. Frankly, I have lost sleep, lost valuable time with my wife, who has expressed on multiple occasions that she has felt like this job is eating away at me because of the staffing crisis. There have been multiple times where I have felt like I am no longer doing the job I previously loved and was excited for. I went from going to work feeling like I was making a difference for the individuals we serve to feeling like I was making due for these individuals because I didn’t have the staff to provide opportunities to grow for the individuals we provide service for…The individuals have expressed that they feel alone. Staff have come up to me timid and scared to request a day off for a close family members funeral because they know how short staffed we are. I have had to tell my wife on multiple occasions to cancel plans with family and friends so that I could figure out staffing issues that have come up. I have seen friends and coworkers work shifts upon shifts back to back to ensure that these individuals are properly supervised. There are people working days in a row. Nearly everyone I talk to, Client or Staff, seem to have fake smiles and optimism. Work feels eerie. 

I’m here because I love my job. I love seeing clients and staff progress as people. During my tenure here I have seen individuals who wouldn’t listen to any promptings to progress get jobs that they love and are good at. I have seen staff come to work with a million things going on in their lives be able be able to lose themselves in the service of our individuals and leave a happier person……. The individuals we serve are the most human humans in the world. When they are happy they are elated, when they are sad they grieve beyond most people’s abilities. People like this don’t have the best chance, but I personally have helped give them one. It’s very fulfilling and rewarding. I stay because I love these individuals and they make me a better person.

The people that work here are truly the salt of the earth. They come from every background known to man, are here for every reason known to man and truly want to serve the people in our program. The system and setup of [our company] is efficient and organized. There are teams of people, dozens of them that are organized in a way to provide the best care for our individuals.

~Brodie, Direct Support Professional in Utah

Christopher's Story

This staffing crisis has really hurt my staff because I have some who have families they are doing their best to support. They are picking up hours every single day because they know the struggle we are in, and yet they don’t have time for their family. Because of this I have witnessed many great staff who valued what they did here leave because the stress was taking to great of a toll and the money they received was not enough to support their families.

 

I, myself, have found myself questioning if I can really keep affording to stay working here. Prices for food increases, house marketing has skyrocketed. Fast food places have a higher starting wage then our lead staff positions. That feels like an insult to our staff and our individuals who we serve.

Helping the guys at my house by working with them on hygiene, cleaning, finding employment, and just being understood has really inspired me to stay where I am at. The other day I was helping an individual clean his room who struggles with verbally expressing himself. I was doing my best to understand and help him just clean his room, he turned to me and said “Chris thank you for understanding me and helping, I really appreciate it, no one else around me tries.” I let him know right there I would always be there for him.

 …It’s frustrating to see great staff leave because they can’t afford to support themselves and their families…

~Christopher, Direct Support Professional in Utah

Bobi's Story

I work as a hiring manager…Recruitment efforts are a main priority for me and the team I work for. We are trying to get as many new employees as we can to work for us, but for one reason or another, we are unable to obtain such a goal. Due to this, not only have I been working relentlessly on trying to get staff through the doors of our company, I have been trying to help by picking up shifts. Working 40 hours in the office and then turning around to help our managers for around 20 hours a week has personally caused me to become exhausted mentally and physically. I’m not even working as much as many others are, but I want to ensure our staff that they are not alone in this crisis. A majority of the time, I’m in fight mode. I don’t have time to think about how tired I am because I have a job to do to help our managers, our staff, and most importantly our individuals that we serve. Like I mentioned, I am not doing half of what others are. [We] need help.

Each and every one of the individuals we serve have a place in my heart. They are family to me. With each hello they give me and each fun conversation we have I grow to love my job more and more. Even on the hard days when they are not being understood I want to be there with them, encourage them, and make their lives better. I’m here because these individuals make me the person I want to be. Compassionate, service oriented, and above all, a mentor and friend. They NEED us!

Again, my favorite thing about [our company] is the individuals and the people I work with. Not every job has such an amazing team as the people that I work with. They put others before themselves and are always willing to help when needed.

The most frustrating thing is the lack of staff. Our individuals need consistency in order to have a positive environment. Without consistent staffing, we are not able to provide the best services that we can. Ultimately the individuals suffer the most. Most staff are leaving or not accepting the position due to the lack of wage. Why put yourself in a mentally challenging situation when you can go to Walmart for $15 an hour.

~Bobi, Hiring Manager in Utah

Shelby's Story

I have come to know many good people during my time here …Co-Workers and Clients respectively…For many of the clients we serve,. [our company] has been their lives and home for many years if not most of their lives. They are now being told they will no longer be in this program due to the simple fact that we don't have the [staff] to serve them…staff are having to put their own personal lives on hold…in hopes that our clients have homes and lives to wake up to the next day. We are being forced to pick between our marriages and personal lives over what we love doing as a career. Given hollow hope and reassurance that help is on the way. Then hope turns to sorrow when faced with another person putting in their two weeks for the same reasons. “More Money, less stress, Less hours”...

 To most, a job is just a job. However, I take pride in what I do…I do this because I genuinely feel I make a difference in the lives of the clients I serve. I am a person they can look towards and trust…

One of my favorite parts of my job are the people I work with... They all make my job very enjoyable and I wish all businesses were this friendly.… But during times like these it almost feels like I am lying to peoples’ faces when I tell them they should come work for our company. Especially when referral bones are being handed out left and right [in other fields]…[we are] not very competitive when compared to even a simple car wash that has an advertised position starting out at $15/hr. Are we Staff and Clients alike just a number? …We are doing our part. Are you?

~Shelby, Direct Support Professional/Manager in Utah