Throughout the pandemic, the St. Louis Arc has been committed to providing quality supports to individuals in the safest way possible for all involved. For most of the St. Louis Arc’s programs, individuals identify goals or outcomes to work toward while they participate in a specific program. These goals are based on a participant’s desire for what a good life means to them. When many supports moved to a virtual format the Arc continued to focus on supporting individuals as they worked toward their goals.
The Arc’s Residential, Leisure, and day programs have continued to support people to stay active and engaged during the pandemic. While this has become more difficult to achieve virtually, the staff has been creative in helping people continue to work toward the goals outlined in their program. Participants have been able to engage in a wide variety of virtual classes, events, and meetings across programs. Staff members have been active in creating video content that showcases their personal interests and skills while also supporting participants in achieving their goals.
Collaboration Is Key
Many individuals who live in the Arc’s residential homes also participate in the Community Engagement (CE) and Aging With Empowerment (AWE) day programs. The staff in the various areas have worked closely over the past few months to support individuals. Goals have been shared between teams, and through this collaboration, more individuals are benefiting. In some cases, a single individual in a residential home will attend a virtual event or meeting for their day program. Since the individual’s roommates are also home, they have all participated and benefited.
Planning as Part of the Goal
Residential staff have been supporting individuals working toward community goals by connecting them with activities that have moved to a virtual format. Attending a church service or a concert have been easily adaptable goals. Other goals, such as taking a vacation or going to dinner, have been put on hold. Staff and participants have focused on the planning aspect of these goals. Instead of going to the Muny, staff is supporting individuals as they look up the shows, watching trailers of the musicals, and selecting the show they would like to see. They are also talking about how much money is needed to buy concessions, and looking at a map and figuring out the route to the Muny.
Another main outcome of virtual supports is to keep participants connected in addition to setting goals. Everyone’s routine has been turned upside down and socializing with others is a major component of our routines. The residential and day program staffs have worked together to help everyone enjoy birthdays. Celebrations have morphed from a house party into a birthday parade or Zoom party with the help of staff. The Arc’s R&R Camp began offering virtual activities five days a week. Through Zoom, campers can see their friends and the R&R staff while participating in virtual activities.
Meeting People Where They Are Comfortable
While Zoom has become the medium of choice for many activities, the Arc is also using additional platforms. Some participants are more comfortable with Facebook Messenger, so staff are assisting participants as they connect with one another and their staff while working on goals. For others, a phone call is the best way to communicate. The platform used is determined by the preference of the participant. In addition to watching videos together, the Arc staff members are discussing the activities with the participant and how they are progressing with their goals.