Karen Reinitz jokes with other staff about her long time placement at the 96A group home. They tease that she’s been there so long she must “own the place” by now.
Karen completed her training in Rehabilitation in Ontario in the 1970s. Group home tours were included in her course of study. The clients she encountered had higher needs than those she works with now and Karen found it difficult to comprehend that they could ever live in a group home situation. She now sees group homes as a great improvement over institutions. “Institutions require a firmer hand, group homes are much more client centered.” In the early 1980s, Karen moved to Alberta to join friend Judy Tremaine, who was already employed by the Association.
When Karen first started as residential worker, she didn’t have a lot of experience with home care. She was very surprised at how nice the group homes were and how well the clients were cared for. She says there is an attempt to keep clients in the same group home for as long as possible, so that their lives can be as consistent as possible. Clients don’t choose their housemates, so social activities give them a chance to know each other outside of the homes.
In the 1980s, Personal Planning was introduced to the Association and implemented for the first time in Northern Alberta. Karen has found that the program gives families a chance to connect with the organization and also gives the workers a chance to promote the work that has been done with clients.
Working in a group home allows staff to know the clients well. Karen can tell when client behaviours are deliberate and says sometimes clients make a conscious effort to ignore the guidelines. In her experience, this can happen for many reasons and often the goal is to get what they want.
Staff training has been excellent through the Association. The many and varied workshops available “put the Association way ahead of other organizations.” Karen finds great satisfaction and pride in working with the clients and appreciates their individuality. For her, one of the greatest challenges in the work is dealing with client crisis on a personal level. “Sometimes you are able to help, sometimes there is nothing you can do to help.”