By the time Leona McLeod became a Residential Coordinator for the Association, she had worked in many of its residential programs in one capacity or another. A well-rounded view of the agency, programs and clientele involved with the Association was the strength she brought to her position as Residential Coordinator.
Leona completed a practicum at the 83rd Ave group home while studying for her Rehabilitation Services Certificate. She continued with some casual placements with the Association during the years she was in college. Leona’s gradual introduction to the group homes was helpful in preparing her for the time when she began to work full time. She started her career with the Association as a residential worker sixteen years ago. Leona remembers days when the work was just fun. She found it hard to believe that she was getting paid sometimes, because the time spent with the clients was so enjoyable.
At all levels, the Association does a lot of training. “When we’re able, we like to send people to take courses. Every bit helps.” Leona appreciates that the Association supports the growth and education of staff in all areas.
Supervising at the group homes was a challenge but it was also interesting because no two days were ever alike. Leona says the same holds true now, in her position as a Residential Coordinator. “Just when you think you have seen it all, then something new comes at you.” It keeps the challenge present all the time and that is what makes the work appealing to her.
When Leona first started in the group homes, the staff to client ratio was often one to four. The residential workers never considered it a tough thing to do. Over the years the staffing ratios changed, with some clients qualifying for individual funding or funding for an aide.
In the 1980s it wasn’t uncommon for a group home worker to spend almost an entire weekend at the group homes and that doesn’t happen with the staffing model that is in place today. There also didn’t seem to be as much of a staff turnover as there is today. There is currently a shift back to less staff, more clients. Staffing issues are more of a struggle day to day than any one client’s problems, medical or behavioural concerns. The tough part is to try to find ways to resolve issues.
Personal Planning was in place when Leona started at the Association. She remembers that sometimes a plan would be a “day long affair.” It was a complicated process of getting caught up with a clients’ history, sometimes going back twenty years. Now the plans take far less time because they are working from one year’s history to the present.
Families sometimes place great emphasis on the input of staff and the responsibility of contributing so heavily to a decision on their behalf can be scary at times.
It’s those times that you really stop and think about the influence you have over somebody else’s life. And normally you would never have that kind of influence over anybody else’s life. Sometimes that just grabs you. It suddenly becomes a very awesome responsibility, and again, humbling.
As the clients mature, the staff tries to offer as much information as possible about issues that impact their lives. It is difficult to sit back and watch situations unfold at times but ultimately, final decisions lie with the client.
Leona knows that her life would be quite different if she had chosen a different career path. She says that long-term relationships with staff and clients have become very important to her.
Sharing with her co-workers has had an influence on her own life. She says that she was so young when she started her career that she basically “grew up with the Association.” She has gained communication skills in the workplace that transfer and are useful in her personal life.
It’s certainly helpful that, as part of a team, we often make decisions collectively when it’s something big.