Kelly Dorsey has never been one to stop moving. While our world has practically come to a standstill, and almost every facet of our lives upended by the Coronavirus pandemic, Kelly’s commitment and deep compassion for the men and women she supports at Change, Inc., a division of Penn-Mar Human Services, has given her the added fuel to keep moving forward – to meet the daily challenges we are all facing, and to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities stay healthy and safe in these unprecedented times. She is not alone in her work and dedication.
Hundreds of Penn-Mar Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and staff are working tirelessly to provide the care and security for the folks they support, while tending to their own families and personal needs. Sadly, it’s taken a global health crisis to spotlight the essential role of the DSP, a role that has traditionally been unrecognized and underpaid at both the state and federal levels, despite its vital life-sustaining importance.
“We’re also on the frontline of this crisis, along with health care workers, nurses, doctors and first responders,” said Kelly, who last year took on the position of Senior DSP. “As DSPs we know how to adapt – that’s what we do. Unfortunately, DSPs don’t get their recognition. Without us, who’s going to care for our most vulnerable citizens?”
Born and raised in Westminster, Md., Kelly, a mother of three boys and one girl who range in age from 16 to 23, began her career in health and human services two decades ago. She cut her teeth working in hospitals and nursing homes where she gained experience in geriatric, intermediate and oncology care, and prior to joining Change worked for the Arc of Anne Arundel.
A Certified Geriatric Assistant and Medication Technician, Kelly would eventually like to add RN to her expertise and qualifications. She is also considering enrolling in Penn-Mar’s Career Ladders, the professional development and credentialing program established in 2016 in partnership with the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP).
“I’ve always been a caregiver-type person and a motivator. I like to see people succeed and gain independence. And paramount to succeeding in this field, you need to have heart and patience, without them the job is not for you. It’s not for the lighthearted.”
Typically, as Senior DSP, Kelly has a long list of responsibilities. While she continues to provide hands-on personal supports, she manages schedules for individuals, coordinates transportation, and assists other DSPs with any scheduling issues they may have. She ensures that the folks they support are active with things that engage them and that they’re interested in and is constantly researching new things for them to do. For the men and women who live independently, Kelly assists them with budgeting and meal preparation and helps provide them with resources to enhance their independence.
With the widespread stay-at-home order, Penn-Mar’s various Day Programs have been temporarily closed and all supports are being provided exclusively through round-the-clock residential and home-based services. “In these difficult times, we’re trying to spread the workload around.”
“We are taking great precautions to limit exposure for the people we support, many of whom don’t understand what’s going on,” said Kelly. “They thrive on structure and routine and when that gets broken, they can become confused. It can be a setback for some, especially those who are very active in the community either through employment or the Day Program.”
Kelly and her team of five, and all the DSPs, are coming up with creative ways to keep folks active and engaged while at home.
“I really don’t know what I would do without my team,” she said “We pull together in a crisis, and we’re going to make it through this. It’s not about us, it’s about them, it’s about making their day, keeping them safe. We’ve just got to keep pushing on. Keep moving.”