Helping the People We Support Live a Life of Richness and Meaning - Penn-Mar

Helping the People We Support Live a Life of Richness and Meaning

Posted on February 23, 2024

By Gregory T. Miller, President and Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Human Services | Chief Executive Officer, Penn-Mar Foundation
CEO Greg Miller's headshot

Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services

Back in 2021, Penn-Mar began developing training tools to address a Person-Centered Initiative (PCI) that would create a culture shift in how our organization’s services are provided. The training sessions for our Teams began in earnest in July of 2022 with the end goal being to transition from a “caregiver” to a “supporter” mentality.

It’s fair to say that we at Penn-Mar have always served the people we support with their best interest in mind. But now we are taking a step back and paying particular attention to what it is they are really saying about their needs, desires and dreams.

At the heart of providing Person Centered supports are the 3Es — Education, Exposure, and Experience. 

Empowering the people we support to live a Person-Centered life is really to help them do what all of us do every day. We make decisions about our own lives based on our experiences, values, and the influence of the people we surround ourselves with. It shouldn’t be any different for people with disabilities.

Many people with disabilities receiving supports have never been able to use the 3 Es to imagine their life’s desires often due to unfounded fears, the thought that they are not intellectually capable of using them, or perhaps they have never been given the opportunity. But once people start to make informed decisions about their lives, they begin to trust their internal instincts, opening up new opportunities and dreams for them to pursue.

To learn more about each person we support, our Team members will utilize “Personal Outcome Measures (POMs),” a tool developed by the distinguished Council of Quality and Leadership (CQL). This organization has spent the last 50 years identifying, defining, and researching aspects of human life regarding people who happen to live with disabilities.

Through their exhaustive research, CQL developed the POMs to elicit information from someone by asking them a series of specific questions designed to find out where that person is at that moment in their life.

Using a conversational, wide-ranging interview format can help identify possible aspects of a person’s life that they want to improve upon, covering everything from how safe they feel throughout the day, to exploring if they are getting the supports they want, to providing opportunities for relationships and jobs.

Our goal is to complete annual interviews with everyone Penn-Mar supports. A summary report will be created from their responses, giving our Team members the ability to see if there are certain aspects of the person’s life that aren’t where they would like them to be. Follow-up conversations with each person will reveal further information that can then be used to create a goal that the person is truly invested in.

The Person-Centered initiative is not about letting the people we support try anything and everything to see what might work. Rather, it is a thoughtful process using an Active Supports model that allows them to participate in their own life choices.

Good solid communications with families will be an important part of this initiative as they have been advocating for their loved ones their entire lives. Understandably it will be an adjustment for them to have the person we support be the primary voice in determining their life goals.

Success is defined by opportunities and the core of Penn-Mar’s mission is to find ways to help the people we support live a life of richness and meaning. This innovative approach will allow us to do just that.

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