And the beat goes on! On Tuesday, April 8, direct care workers from the Greater Houston area gathered at the United Way of Greater Houston to attend the 17th Annual Direct Care Workers Conference. It was a celebration of Direct Care Workers Day in the City of Houston, and what a day it was. The theme of the conference was the Heart of Service, highlighted beautifully by the blue heart logo created for the conference. The words in the heart were responses from the Spring 2013 Direct Care Workers who answered the question, what makes a direct care worker excellent? The words in the heart so accurately describe the hearts of direct care workers, who provide care on one level or another to people of all ages who have disabilities and chronic illnesses. This full day conference recognizes the important role direct care workers play in caring for and improving the quality of life for older adults. The morning began with an interactive role play workshop led by performers from the University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance, joined by improvisers from the local Houston area. The workshop involved a series of case scenarios dealing with challenging behaviors direct care workers may encounter when working with older adults. Led by a moderator, the conference participants were able to visually identify positive and/or negative aspects of the different scenarios in order to better understand how to appropriately handle stressful situations with clients in their environment. In the second morning workshop, conference attendees listened to a powerful Laughter Yoga presentation by Stephen Findley, CEO/ Director of Shakha Seminars. “In addition to education provided through workshops, the Direct Care Workers Conference provided the opportunity for direct care workers to network and learn from each other, as well as to be celebrated for their hard work and many accomplishments” said Joshua Reynolds, Director of Care for Elders. The conference luncheon highlighted the 2014 Direct Care Worker of the Year Award in recognition of the choice direct care workers make to give of themselves so abundantly in service with an “above and beyond” attitude to our older adults of today and tomorrow. With an incredible response from the community, 21 nominations were received, the highest number of nominations received in the history of the award. The 2014 Direct Care Worker of the Year Award recipient was Lorrie Babineaux of Colonial Oaks, and the two Honorable Mention Award recipients were Evelyn Cifuentes of Home Vitality Care and Linda Rowlinson of Amazing Place.
The Direct Care Workers conferences could not be possible without the continuous support and generous funding from Harris County Area Agency on Aging. “Care for Elders is committed to improving and supporting the Direct Care Workforce because finding and keeping reliable, qualified caregivers is one the biggest concerns expressed by older adults and their loved ones” said Lynda Collins, Care for Elders Leadership Council Chair. “AAA’s generous funding gives Care for Elders the chance to partner with the United Way of Greater Houston every year to address this compelling need in a unique way.” Care for Elders is incredibly grateful for the strong support of our committed funders, generous sponsors, hardworking planning committee, and dedicated volunteers who made the conference possible.