The Career of a Direct Support Professional: Joan's 40 Year Anniversary

By Sara Porcaro | Sep 22, 2021
Anniversary, Administration, Employee Loyalty, Career Building, Celebrate, Disabilities, Rhode Island
Joan and Bob

In 1977--44 years ago this year--the beginnings of Perspectives Corporation were coming together under President Dave Ruppell's leadership, with a house on Kenyon Avenue. This, along with the opening of many other agency and state-owned homes across Rhode Island, marked a new chapter in the lives of Lil' Rhody's I/DD community, and since then, Perspectives has only continued to grow--expanding into Employment and Adult Day services, Youth and Family Services, specialized services for members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, and more, all with a focus on doing what's right by those we serve. And over the course of Pesrpectives' growth, there have been dedicated team members working hard and standing proud--ones like Direct Support Professional Joan McAleer, who, this year, celebrates 40 years of fantastic work!
"So much has changed," Joan says, "and a lot of it's been good changes, I think. It's been fantastic to watch Perspectives grow, and seeing the great work Dave, [CEO] Judy Niedbala, and [Senior Director] Dale Smalley, and others have done to build the agency up."
For Joan, the draw of this line of work started young. Having had the opportunity to grow up in a neighborhood with many different children, including children with disabilities, she found herself not only making a variety of friends, but also being drawn to lines of work where she could help others live their best lives. It was no wonder that, as she grew up and decided on her career, she took the path to a degree in elementary education with Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, with a focus on special education. However, it was in 1981 that she found a place with Perspectives.
It was her husband who worked there first and recommended the job to her, and she's been on the same team since--with her husband and her children all working in the industry to make a difference. And for twenty years, Joan worked with a tight-knit team that saw little change. Each day she came in, she found herself surrounded by people that, over their many years together, became more than coworkers--and working in an environment as intimate as individuals' homes, it was years of feeling like she was there with friends and family, rather than simply showing up to a job.
"I love these people like my family," Joan says of the individuals she supports. "Being here for so long, honestly, these people don't even know what I am to them--friend or employee--because I've always been here."
It's a sentiment shared by not just Joan, but the team: "Joanie is not just a Direct Support Professional on our team; she's family," Site Supervisor Megan Lyons adds. "She has such a calm way of handling every situation, and all the individuals we support truly adore her. I've worked with her for ten years, and she is such a wonderful peer. Our crew is very lucky to have her these last 40 years!"
However, with time comes change, and that means that the steadfast team Joan once knew slowly began to look different as the years went on. From her peers taking new jobs to retiring, to them simply going through different phases of their life that caused them to continue their journey elsewhere, Joan has watched her team evolve, and all the while, she's always found her coworkers to be good people--ones that care for the individuals they support and want only to see them living happy, fulfilling lives. Still, the turnover that has shaken the industry, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is something that's difficult for individuals, who come to make such strong bonds with DSPs that support them in their day-to-day lives.
"It's hard for them, but they do their best to adjust," Joan says of the individuals we support. "They need consistency, certain diets--they need people who know them really well. It's tough when people come and go, but we all do what we can."
As Joan continues working, meeting the next generation of Direct Support Professionals and helping them learn not just how to do a job, but how to truly be a friend to the individuals that they meet with every day. For Joan, after forty years spent by the side of individuals she's come to know like family, it's difficult seeing how so much time has come to affect them in their everyday lives--as it is for any of us to see how age slows our loved ones down. But she has faith in the peers who join the team, and her advice is simple: remember that individuals we support are our bosses, and be kind.
"Kindness is very important," Joan says. "In this position, I really encourage new DSPs to get to know the people they're working with, and to remember that the people we support are our bosses; we're not theirs. Building these relationships matters."
And if there's anyone that exemplifies that kindness, it's Joan! Her work with her team is not only stellar, but vital; her many years on that team have been full of great memories and experiences in the home of those she describes as beautiful people--ones who've taught her so much about life and how to live it. We're grateful for such essential workers like Joan; we're glad to have had her on the team for all these years, and we're looking forward to the future, too! Congratulations to Joan for her forty year anniversary!


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