GoodLife U Episode 7: Lifestyle Professional Direct Support Positions

This month in our GoodLife U Video Blog series, Dr. Mike Strouse is going to cover Lifestyle Professional Direct Support positions, which are positions that allow the caregiver to live with, next-door to, or down the street from the people they support. We like to call them “lifestyle” positions because people in these roles (and those that they support) essentially join in on each other’s lives to differing degrees. 

At GoodLife, these positions include Professional Roommates, Professional Families, Professional Neighbors, and Professional Extended (or Teaching) Families. They offer a specific professional growth or career ladder for our shift-style DSP workforce, one with the best tenure, quality of care, position, and even income opportunities.

Today, we are going to specifically cover the qualities and characteristics of Professional Roommates, Professional Families, and Professional Neighbors.

Professional Roommates 

Professional Roommates are Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) that work extended shifts of at least 24 hours, generally across two or three days and sleep in an extra bedroom of a home where our clients live. 

Often, two or three Professional Roommates work to support the clients in one home across a whole week. They normally work for about 16 hours a day (when not sleeping), although it’s possible that they might have a few hours of relief during that 16 hour period provided by a shift-style DSP that supports multiple Professional Roommate homes across a neighborhood. All of our Professional Roommates sleep in the home and sleep time of up to 8 hours/night, under certain conditions, can be excluded from time worked, as long as the Professional Roommate is not called to duty. 

At GoodLife Professional roommates work in homes supported by iLink Technologies where iCoaches use technology to monitor the home overnight and wake and deploy them to support a person who has a need. iLink also tracks any time worked overnight by our Professional Roommates to assure that they are getting sufficient sleep.  

The benefits for the Professional Roommate include:

  • Only 1 trip to and from work each week means fewer commuting or child-care costs.
  • Higher wages than traditional shift staff during waking hours because night costs are reduced.
  • Generally paid for 16 hours in a day.

For the provider this offers:

  • Affordable night support when combined with iLink Technologies, if clients sleep fairly well during the night.
  • Great option for day-services-without-walls or home-directed community services since there is no residential or day services staffing overlap (which is common with traditional approaches).
  • Higher pay rates that are more affordable and employees earn a significant number of hours per pay period in only three days (48 hours–with four days off each week!)
  • Can be recruited from DSP shift employees.
  • Greater staff stability since there are significantly fewer different people involved in care (this reduces costs and improves quality of care).
  • A good strategy for clients who need longer coverage across days but who require very little support at night.
  • An ability to recruit staff from farther distances.

Professional Families 

Professional Families live in a home with 2 to 4 persons that they support. Typically the family lives in separate but connected living quarters to the individuals served (like a duplex, or multi-level home). The makeup of Professional Families is diverse–individuals, couples (both traditional and non-traditional), children, and pets come together under one roof in this model to build an inclusive lifestyle for all. 

Professional Neighbors

Professional Neighbors are similar to Professional Families, except that Professional Neighbors generally live in close proximity (down the street or next door) to the homes of multiple individuals served. At GoodLife, our Professional Neighbors live and work in the Neighborhood Network, an award-winning and highly sustainable service model.

In both staffing models (Professional Families and Professional Neighbors), iLink is used overnight to support the homes and can wake the Professional Families or Professional Neighbors if direct care is required. We will often staff one roving DSP to support multiple homes in a community in order to reduce the need for Professional Families or Professional Neighbors to work at night excessively. Professional Families and Professional Neighbors have “flex” hours for home management, medical appointments, and for supervising DSPs who work in shifts to provide relief.

Benefits for the Professional Family and the Professional Neighbor include:

  • Typically having all housing costs covered. Since the home is a requirement of employment, housing is not only free, but is also a non-taxed amenity as well.
  • Virtually no commuting costs since traveling to/from work isn’t a factor. 
  • A meal stipend for Professional Families.
  • Working designated hours and having designated days off.
  • Tax-free compensation. More on this in a future episode!

For the provider, this offers

  • Both direct and administrative/management support to deliver care. Since Professional Families and Professional Neighbors live on location, they are far more available and effective to mentor DSPs.
  • A very cost effective support for emergency or intermittent needs.
  • Cost-effective split shifts. Professional Families and Professional Neighbors may work early in the morning and late in the afternoon, which works well for homes where persons attend day services where care is not needed throughout the day.  
  • Far fewer different people involved in care–again, lower costs and higher care quality.
  • Career advancement opportunities for DSPs who build close relationships and bonds with the individuals they serve.
  • FAR LESS turnover. This can range from 300% to 500% less turnover than DSPs annually–a critical measure of stability.
  • An ability to recruit regionally, expanding your reach for employees to other regions.

All of the Lifestyle Professional Direct Support positions cost-effectively:

  • develop deep, personal relationships with the persons they serve,
  • provide more consistent care across time, and
  • allow for more individualized care including eliminating traditional/congregate approaches to day services.

Remember, these positions can and should be a strategic part of a neighborhood support approach. The Neighborhood Network is a next generation service model that provides in-home care that ebbs and flows around need. As a result, the caregivers become highly vested members of their neighborhood, creating better, more inclusive, and interdependent lifestyle opportunities for persons they serve.
Next time we will explore our Professional Extended Family Model. Until then, check out our other Episodes and explore what else our GoodLife U is up to. Want to stay up to date with all that GoodLife is working on? Sign up for our Monthly E-News, like and follow us on social media, listen wherever you get your Podcasts, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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