Getting to Know You: How an Individualized Approach is Changing Adult Day Services

Getting to Know You: How an Individualized Approach is Changing Adult Day Services

Written by Adrienne Hedger, Internal Communications Manager for Easterseals Southern California

An exciting change is underway in Adult Day Services at Easterseals Southern California (ESSC), and it’s transforming the way people think about their lives. In honor of Developmental Disability Awareness Month this March, I sat down with Amber Carey-Navarrete, Director of Person-Centered Services, to talk about what’s happening and what it means for the future of disability services.

Across the nation, Adult Day Services play an important role by providing a place where people with disabilities can stay mentally and physically active and connect with others. As part of this mission, service providers will typically ask: What can we do to help you during your time with us?

“At ESSC, we’re trying something different,” said Amber Carey-Navarrete, Director of Person-Centered Services. “We are stepping outside of that traditional timeframe, looking at the bigger picture, and asking people, ‘What do you want out of life?’”

A deep question, yes. And it’s leading to some remarkable results.

Exploring Hopes, Dreams, and Goals

Amber Carey-Navarrete, Director of Person-Centered Services for Easterseals Southern California

This “whole-life” approach is built on a concept known as Personal Outcome Measures, or POM. It’s a discovery tool created by the Council on Quality and Leadership.

To be sure, a person-centered philosophy is not new in the aging and disability services community. It’s existed for decades and continues to evolve. But the POM approach takes a clear step forward by transforming the philosophy into a practical tool that leads to concrete results.

“Through guided POM discussions, people in our Adult Day Services are sharing what really matters to them,” said Amber. “Their hopes, interests, aspirations and dreams. During these talks, people gain a stronger sense of who they are and what they want from their lives. For some, it’s the first time they’ve been asked these questions.”

The insights they share guide our approach at ESSC. We can connect them with the tools and resources they need, as well as support them in making informed decisions.

From Weekend Meet-Ups to Culinary School

After using the Personal Outcome Measures (POM) tools to talk about what she wanted in life, Michelle pursued culinary school.

Very often, people express a desire to spend more time with particular friends and family members. One person regularly started talking to a relative in Ireland over Zoom. Another was able to connect with her father in Arizona. Many others have learned how to travel to see nearby friends or sweethearts. Still others are exploring sports, hobbies and international trips. Weekends that used to be socially limited are now an opportunity to connect.

One man expressed a desire to move out on his own. Over time, he achieved this goal and now lives in his own apartment with some in-home support. He uses his time at Easterseals Adult Day Services to work on his grocery list and go shopping.

Another woman, Michelle, had a dream to cook and sell food. Her coach helped her with the process of getting into culinary school and learning various cooking techniques.

Gaining Confidence and Getting Motivated

“Across the board, people are gaining confidence and speaking up for themselves,” said Amber. “It’s clear that they feel a stronger sense of self-worth.”

Angelica Real, Director of Adult Day Services North, made a similar observation. “A lot of our young adults have always looked to others to answer for them about what to say and do. We’re teaching them, no, this is your life, your plan, your future. Now individuals are speaking up about their rights and their wants.”

This approach isn’t just beneficial for those who come to ESSC, it improves the lives of our associates as well. One associate noted about someone she’d known for years: “It was like meeting them for the first time and seeing them through new eyes.”

Another associate said, “This really opened my eyes to the ways in which we provide support. Before the training, I found myself wondering and contemplating about what was best for the individual. Now I stop and ask them what they think is right for them and their life.”

It’s motivating and energizing to establish that deeper connection, and to support someone in achieving a personal goal.

Spreading the Knowledge

What started with one pilot location, has now expanding to more than 100 ESSC associates trained in POM, and more than 130 people completing a POM conversation in 2023.

In addition, the Person-Centered Culture and Practices (PCCP) manual ESSC created in 2019, focuses on how to facilitate person-centered change within services. It has attracted interest from other local and regional organizations, and we’re seeing that a person-centered culture change could be far-reaching. With the combination of POM and PCCP, we are changing how services are provided—and that’s changing the outcomes of the services.

Ultimately, the hope is that this raises the bar for what’s expected from adult day services. We know that people living with developmental disabilities often face a range of obstacles. The time they spend with us can be a place where they feel safe to grow in their voice and their advocacy.

“We are here to listen, to honor people’s rights, and to support them in the ups, downs, mistakes, and successes,” said Amber. “We want every person to know that no matter what, we will always have their back. This is their life to live, and they can make it fully their own.”

About the Author:

Adrienne Hedger is the Manager of Internal Communications for Easterseals Southern California, where she writes articles about the organization, its people and its projects. She has been a business writer for more than 20 years, specializing in the healthcare industry.

Leave A Comment