Carmen Jones has been a caretaker, leader, coworker, advisor, nurse, and friend to KANDU clients and staff for 15 years. Despite having no previous experience in working with people who have disabilities, Carmen has worked her way from an entry-level position to a department manager, all while raising a family and earning a bachelor’s degree in human services. She is an expert at supporting adults with disabilities and leads with compassion as she carries out the KANDU mission.
In addition to serving on KANDU’s inclusion council (a committee designed to encourage inclusion, so every employee feels seen, heard, and supported), and being the first CNA hired by KANDU, Carmen has been instrumental in the design, management, and growth of KANDU’s adult daycare, an activities-based program for adults with disabilities or memory impairments that emphasizes improvement in physical, mental, and social well-being.
Carmen’s warmth and kindness has driven an increase in the number of people KANDU serves in the adult daycare program. “It’s important to build good relationships with case workers, family members, and guardians,” said Carmen. “It’s important for the client and the people in their support system, but also leads to referrals and our ability to grow our client base.” Carmen and her team provide a wide range of opportunities and care for current clients while planning for future increases in client numbers due to an aging population. Diverse activities and respite care are particularly important in order to position KANDU as the first choice for families dealing with a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Carmen is the example many look up to for inspiration when working with people who have disabilities. “Carmen is an expert at what she does and puts her whole heart into enhancing the lives of her clients. She provides for clients as if they were family,” said Client Services Director Julie Smith. “She goes above and beyond when it comes to caregiving.” Carmen explained that including clients in goal setting and activity planning is an important part of maintaining a sense of independence, “My favorite project is developing the activity calendars. We have an on-site calendar and outing calendar,” said Carmen. “The clients truly enjoy coming up with ideas for activities and outings each month.”
Stressful situations can arise when working with adults with disabilities, and Carmen’s level-headed, calming compassion makes her especially suited to talking clients down from agitated states. In one instance, Carmen accompanied an upset client as they left our facility and refused to return. Given the emotional state of the client, it was deemed the client was unsafe to leave alone, so Carmen walked alongside the client in the August heat for more than a mile offering companionship and comfort in a moment of crisis. Carmen took the time to notify all services and authorities needed while continuing to support the client until additional help arrived.
When asked how she does it all, Carmen said her motivation comes from “the opportunity to make a difference in my clients’ lives and create a sense of meaning throughout the day. Each day is different, but the smiles and laughter make working for KANDU rewarding.”