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Who are Caregivers?

Caregivers are those special people that have the most direct contact with our consumers*. If they are family members, their responsibilities maybe 24/7. If they are professional caregivers, their contact is usually an eight hour shift. They are responsible for the most intimate of care; they are the ones that establish the closest relationships; they are the people who most likely will notice subtle changes in a consumer's responses and are often times the ones who notify other's of possible developing illnesses.

In four of the group homes I work in, all of the direct caregivers are Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in the state of California. Jamie O'Connor Florez, the owner of Ryan's Way <www.ryansway,org> is a registered nurse and an instructor in the CNA program at Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, California. Jamie has a son, Ryan, who has severe physical and intellectual disabilities and her philosophy is that her group homes will be environments that reflect the standards of what she would want for her son and what Ryan would want, hence the name Ryan's Way. When she detects a student that seems to adhere to this standard, she will recruit them for a job when they complete their program. Many of the caregivers she hires often continue their studies toward becoming a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) or Registered Nurse (RN) and she provides some flexibility for them to take their classes as well as serve the needs of the facilities. The Ryan's Way atmosphere is that we are an extended family and everyone will be treated with care and respect.

Caregivers are Special and Continuing Education is Important

1. Caregivers have a lifetime of experiences that can apply to care giving situations and they can become self-directed

2. Caregivers are most responsive to educational programs that meet their specific needs and provide appropriate tools
for problem solving.

3. Caregivers can assist with the identification of their learning needs and the development of a learning plan.

4. Caregivers, especially older caregivers, need support to empower them to overcome inihibitions, fears, and beliefs
relating to their ability to carry out unfamiliar caregiving tasks.

Caregiver Educational Goals

1. Increase knowledge of basic sensory systems,sensory processing, and the sensory basis of challenging behaviors and
and needs.

2. Improve knowledge on the selection of appropriate activities and resources.

3. Increase knowledge of Multi Sensory Environments and illicit their participation is the development and use of this dedicated space.

* Consumer is used by the California Department of Developmental Services to define a client that has developmental
disabilities and is a utilizer of services.