An individual we were asked to support had a previous episode of placing popcorn in the microwave long enough that it turned it into a ball of fire, creating safety concerns and ruining the microwave. In these situations, a common response to a behavior such as this would be to place overnight staff in the home to monitor for health and safety.
Using remote supports we were able to greatly reduce his reliance on direct support professionals, reduce expenses to his waiver, and increase his independence. We knew that his target behavior was to get up in the middle of the night and make a snack that was always in the same cabinet. Our solution was as follows:
- We installed a remote supports system to meet various needs throughout the home, such as perimeter sensors and smoke detectors.
- We installed motion detectors throughout the home so we would know when he was getting up and moving around, and so that we could locate him in his home based on the activity of the motion sensors.
- We installed sensors on the refrigerator, microwave and cabinets so that we knew what he was accessing for his snacks. Since our staff personally know each of their consumers, they could tell what he was up to while he was moving around at night.
- We also installed a two-way video device that would allow for our remote supports staff to automatically connect with him and coach him through whatever he was doing.
- Lastly, we installed various home automation devices to enable us to complete tasks such as unlocking doors and turning off the microwave.
Once the system was in place and configured for his needs, we were able to see when he was up at night, including making popcorn, by following the activity as it rolled in to our system. As our staff were monitoring him, they’d connect and talk to him when they saw that he was making popcorn. While talking, they could provide verbal prompts and reminders as part of his training to properly use the microwave. If he did not follow their prompts and, therefore, allow for a situation where the operation of the microwave would be unsafe, our staff would simply shut the microwave off from the monitoring center. Luckily, their coaching and prompts trained him to the point where he became completely safe on his own. This is the story that we see all the time. We want to design a system that is least restrictive and would allow for us to provide training in and of these activities of daily living. The intention is to work ourselves out of a job by increasing the freedom and independence that our consumers experience.
Julia McCampbell, a guardian from advocacy and protective services, provides guardianship services for 2 individuals who have experience using remote supports. Jane currently uses remote supports and the other, Eric, had quit using remote supports. Both had a similar response to the service.
The two reasons why Julia and the rest of the team wanted to pursue remote supports with Jane were to promote independence and provide supervision. Jane had difficulty being at home by herself. Not having someone in the home, initially caused anxiety. When alone, she would often call direct support staff, friends and family, hoping someone would come over to the house. Remote supports were chosen as an alternative to having staff in the home during some hours. Now, however, after using remote supports, being alone no longer causes anxiety and she has been able to add alone time without either remote or direct supports. Other changes, including taking more initiative to clean without prompt, have been noted as well.
Eric had 24 hour staffing and would often become physically aggressive with staff. The team decided to try remote supports. As the hours with staff decreased, the aggressive behavior also declined. Today, Eric no longer has 24 hours of support, remote or otherwise. Now, the staffing are considered drop-in staff. Meaning, Eric will have people come to the home to assist him on an as-needed basis. Remote supports provided a safe environment to provide support without having staff in the home. This freedom enabled Eric’s needs to be reevaluated and assisted him as he transitioned to have drop-in staffing rather than 24 hour support.
Ms. McCampbell believes that remote supports enabled Jane and Eric to become more comfortable living with greater self-reliance, in an environment without the physical presence of direct support.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality
*Ms. McCampbell’s opinions are her own and not, necessarily, the views of the company she works for