In the field of direct care, there are so many things that make for a good residence.

    Team work and team building is essential. When strong teamwork is exhibited, you’re able to create a safe, comfortable space for the residents.

    Team building helps keep the trust strong between colleagues and improves productivity. The residents thrive on seeing a strong team that works cohesively.

    They begin to collaborate on everyday tasks and work together better when they see teamwork modeled daily.

    Another great example of what makes for a good residence is including the residents in decision making. Allowing the residents to make informed decisions creates a space where the individuals feel their opinions are valued and heard in their home. For example, when assisting with medication administration it is important to ensuring the resident is aware of and understands the details, benefits, risks and expected outcome of each medication before beginning the first dose. Along with informed decision making- keeping a person-centered approach builds a strong trust with the residents.

    Taking a person-centered approach when supporting someone allows them to build trust and enjoy one-on-one time spent with that specific person. Quality time with staff is something resident’s might not get to enjoy too often since the COVID pandemic due to staffing shortages across the healthcare field.

    Community integration is vital to a quality life. Promoting community integration for the people we support helps fix the disconnect that is so often present by creating inclusive and diverse relationships through social connections, employment and other regular daily activities. One great way to promote community integration is to involve our residents in community activities.

    Community activities play a huge role in the lives of the residents. Community activities can be anything from bowling, swimming, gardening, social groups, or even exercise classes like Zumba! Any activities that can be used to promote good holistic health while having fun enriches their lives and creates opportunities for them to socialize outside of their home.

    Community activities are a great way to learn what your residents like to do and can help you find other opportunities for them with similar interests. An important piece of community integration is finding businesses that are handicap accessible. Oftentimes we have individuals with wheelchairs and walkers for safety.  Ensuring a business has ramps or an elevator lift is crucial as they cannot safely enter the establishment if it is inaccessible. Businesses that have begun to utilize adaptive and assistive devices promote community integration since it makes for greater accessibility and creates inclusivity which allows the residents who need these devices to enjoy these activities without any limitations.

    There are so many other benefits to community integration. It helps build practical life skills, gives inclusive employment opportunities within the workforce, prevents isolation and allows for the opportunity to engage with others overall. It also teaches appropriate social behaviors and gives the opportunity to build valued social roles like relationships, marriage, and parenting. 


Today, OPWDD Acting Commissioner, Kerri Neifeld visited Wildwood, participating in a listening and discussion session hosted by CEO Lou Deepe with representatives from the Wildwood Board of Directors, Executive Management, Day Supports, United People's Self Advocacy Group, Communications, and Community Integration. She also took time to visit a WithOut Walls Values activity and meet the staff and participants.


The acting commissioner is clearly focused on listening to people who receive supports, the concerns of direct staff, and the challenges service providers are facing in today's environment.

We are very excited to launch The Wildwood Digest, our new quarterly multi-media publication!

It features letters from leadership, a summary of our media appearances, our top YouTube and Facebook posts, our self-advocacy corner and it encompasses our newsletter Reaching Out.

Click here to view the Wildwood Digest:

    Everyone will be touched by caregiving at some point in their lives. Rosalynn Carter said it first and she said it best: "There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers." The latest data shows that 53 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult. Nearly one in five caregivers provide care to an adult with health or functional needs.  

    Caregiving literally means the activity or profession of regularly looking after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person. This definition of caregiving includes a very large population of paid and unpaid caregivers. Many people don't consider themselves caregivers. They may be a parent with a child with a disability;  helping an older loved one by picking up groceries for them or helping them pay their bills;  a staff who provides supports and services; part of the "sandwich" generation, i.e. taking care of their own children while also taking care of older family members. The caregiving umbrella covers a wide range of tasks, responsibilities and "other duties as assigned".     

    The caregiving role provides challenges and rewards to both the caregiver and the person receiving care. The role can often be overwhelming and exhausting. Many caregivers feel that there's always something more to do and they just can't get it all done. This ongoing challenge can often lead to increased stress and the decreased health of the caregiver. The person receiving care may also feel guilty about needing so much time and needing help to do things they used to do themselves. As the relationship progresses, a balance can be found through good communication, realistic expectations and additional caregiving resources.  

    Additional resources can often be found within the network of family and friends, in the community, online and through support groups. Caregivers are never alone, but can often feel very isolated especially when medical needs increase or rehabilitation for injuries or other health conditions is necessary. Many caregivers can find support through talking with others and finding local networks, such as through churches, for assistance. As caregiving responsibilities may increase, the opportunities and time for these social connections and support may decrease. Special effort and attention to keep the balance is especially critical at these times. 


     By nature, caregivers put others' needs first and don't feel that they can take time for themselves. They feel guilty about taking time for their own needs, however, they must be mindful to take that time to recharge and renew themselves. It is like the airplane instructions of putting on your own oxygen mask first so you can then attend to others. Likewise, caregivers must stay healthy and happy in order to take care of others. Taking even five minutes for a quick walk or just to sit and do nothing will ultimately lead to increased health benefits and continued positive interactions. Self-care can also increase the capacity for patience and understanding when caregiving situations become more difficult. Self-care is often forgotten or is way down on the list of priorities for the day. 

    Caregivers also become master information managers. Setting up working organizational systems, such as filing or weekly medication boxes, makes many tasks much easier to manage. A medical manager can keep all information easily accessible. This system makes the management of medical information much easier. Information about services received can also become overwhelming. A similar system, set up by category, online or hard copy, helps keep that type of information easily organized and retrievable.  

    Technology can also be used to keep track of information and make life easier. Automatic reminders and alerts can be set up on smart phones. Safety alarms can be set up within the home to alert caregivers remotely to any motion at any time of day. Technology can also be used to help stay connected with family and friends. Video chats can provide uplifting times for both the caregiver and the person receiving care. Technology is also an easy way to get the next generation of caregivers involved! 

    Caregivers need ongoing support to continue to be effective in their roles. This need has been recognized by lawmakers at the state and federal levels. Recent legislation in New York State strengthens the support for caregivers through the Caregiver, Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act. Congress received the Family Caregiving Advisory Council's report on 9/22/21 regarding the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act identifying the needs of caregivers. 

In summary, the top five tips for finding balance while caregiving are to:

1. Appreciate caregiving time spent with the person. 

2. Make social connections through in-person or online support.

3. Take care of yourself- physically, emotionally and mentally. 

4. Manage information through organizing systems.

5. Use technology for tasks whenever possible.   

    Caregivers face many challenges, but can find balance and receive many rewards. Caregiving provides the satisfaction that someone else's life is improved and their needs have been met. The time spent in the caregiving role enriches both the giver and receiver of care. By helping one person at a time, caregivers really make all the difference. 


To find more information on local support groups, go to:

For an excellent self-care workbook, go to:     

For a comprehensive overview of digital resources for caregivers, go to:

Recent legislation in New York State strengthens the support for caregivers through the Caregiver, Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act. Click here for more information on : 

Congress received the Family Caregiving Advisory Council's report on 9/22/21 regarding the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act identifying the needs of caregivers. For the full report and more details, go to: 


The families of Wildwood’s site-based day habilitation programs at Riverside, New Karner, and Pinecrest have a new opportunity for connection with one another, resource sharing, and information acquisition--the Day Hab Family Connection Network.  

Social worker, Amelia Izzo spearheaded the formation of this group to support individuals in both day services and residential services. It was an important addition to the program.

“After the school years, parents don’t have the same opportunities to connect. We wanted to form a group for that to happen again within Day Supports,” Jean Miller, Riverside Site-manager said.

Amelia is an experienced group facilitator, having conducted therapeutic groups when she worked at The Eddy.  Amelia offers opportunities for both information sharing and emotional support. 

“The Network is a resource for families who are caring for their loved one with a disability. The group was founded last April after families identified a need for community and connection,” Amelia said. 

The beginning phases of the group consisted of talking with families and gauging their interest in a group that would connect them to other families living similar experiences. 

“We asked questions like, ‘What would they want the group to look like?’ ‘Who would attend?’ How do we do this in the middle of a pandemic?’’ Amelia said. “Many parents felt that they hadn’t had this type of connection since their adult child was in school. Once their child transitioned into adulthood, a lot of those valuable relationships seemed to drift and get lost in life's shuffle.” 

The first four sessions were piloted with Riverside families. The group had a steady attendance and a positive impact on families. The parents identified a want to expand the group and invite families from other programs. Sharing experiences seemed to be extremely valuable and with outside perspective, parents felt there was a lot to learn from one another. In November, the group expanded to Pinecrest and New Karner families.

“Once a month the group meets virtually to connect and discuss various topics. Some months we welcome guest speakers and other months we focus on support and building connections,” Amelia said.

 The Day Hab Family Connections Group has invited guest speakers from various Wildwood departments to discuss Community and Individualized Supports, Family Support Services, In-Home Behavioral Supports, and the Residential placement process. They have also worked with outside community agencies such as Mental Health Legal Services. In November the group invited an attorney from the regional office to discuss advance directives, end of life decision making, and guardianship. 

“During the emotional support sessions, parents check in with each other, reflect on how they are doing as a parent, caregiver, full time employee, and whatever other roles they juggle in day to day life. At the end of these sessions, the group will take time to set an intention of something to do for themselves before the next meeting,” Amelia said.


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