We All Have Goals
Have you ever set a New Year’s resolution? Do you regularly set goals to improve your health, education, fitness, career, relationships? The people we support are no different. Every person we support has a vision of what they want their life to look like. Every person has goals they want to accomplish. The goals will help them move toward a meaningful life … a life they value.
We are paid providers of those supports. That means we have the privilege and responsibility to assist people we support in defining their goals and helping them accomplish them. Although goal setting for ourselves tends to be informal, people we support have a formal process for goal setting through the IP/ISP process. This formal process can be done well or poorly.
More than anyone else in the system, direct support professionals and program managers who work with people have the most influence over whether or not the process is done well. A well-done process means a person who receives support has a voice that is heard, a voice that describes what matters most to them. When we really listen, we can help them craft a vision of a their good life. Well-done also means setting goals to accomplish what is Important TO people that are healthy and safe and promote community value.
Many of us participate in annual ISP/IP meeting and help the support team develop outcomes for the upcoming year. These outcomes are goals for life. They are what the DSPs will help the person work on throughout the year. They should accurately reflect what a person wants to learn or accomplish over the next year. Outcomes should help people move toward a life they love.
New Year’s Resolutions
Back to the idea of New Year’s resolutions and life goals. When we set our resolutions or goals, aka, outcomes, we also establish sub goals to work up to the big goals. If my goal is to save $1000 over the next year, I might decide to save $50 from every paycheck. For the people we support, these sub goals are called action steps. Action steps are the smaller goals we help them work on to get to the larger goals or outcomes.
For most of us, tracking our progress feels good and helps us stay on track, moving toward our goals. The same is true for the people we support. For that reason, both outcomes and action steps should be objective and measurable. If I have a goal of making five new friends this year, who I don’t work with and am not related to, I might have a sub-goal of attending church regularly to meet new people. I might plan to attend a fitness class once a week. I could have another sub-goal of inviting one person a month for drinks or a meal.
The System Can Help
The process should be no different for the people we support. Thankfully, DSPs and PMs are in the best position to observe a person, talk to them and learn about them. DSPs and PMs can help a person share with their team what they want to accomplish and what steps would help them get there.
You Can Do This
Start having these conversations with the people you support well before their annual review meeting. This will allow plenty of time to help them nail down the outcomes they want to accomplish. Help them write down their ideas, so they will be prepared for the meeting. When they go prepared, the team is more likely to actually listen to them, rather than taking over the planning of their lives.
Annual Goal Setting: How it Looks
Outcomes are what the DSP will assist a person with throughout the year. Action steps are a means to achieve the outcome. Both outcomes and action steps should be objective and measurable.
DSPs and other providers assist in identifying the outcomes. We help the people we support communicate with their support teams (COS or IDT) what they want their annual outcomes to be. Those outcomes should be built into the Individual Plan. Then, we follow the outcomes in Individual Plan that were generated by the person.
Our role is very important. We are the teachers, coaches and motivators. Simple verbal reminders or directions may be all the assistance that is needed. Assistance may be more involved hand over hand assistance. We may actually be doing the activity to show how it is done. Regardless of the support we provide, we always document what we worked on and how the person responded to our support the ISP outcomes in Therap. Documentation should describe what worked and did not work about our support. This helps others learn from our experience. Sharing our learning also allows us to get better and better in the way we support people.
Make It About the Person
Outcomes listed in the ISP/IP are important because the plan is built around them and supports are authorized based on them. When we talk about supports being authorized, we are talking about funding. In order for the person’s services to be paid for by the state and federal government, good outcomes are needed. It needs to be clear why the person needs the supports (money) that is being requested.
The annual review meeting should be comprised of people who know and love the person well and who the person chooses to be present. Providers should come prepared with suggested outcomes based on their knowledge and experience of what is Important TO and Important FOR the person they support. Outcomes are developed from that information along with participation from other support team participants. Every person supported should have an IP or ISP that reflects the things that are Important TO and Important FOR them, based on what they tell us with their words and their behavior. This makes the plan theirs and individualized to them.
So, do your part and help the person you support define and describe what they want out of life and help them develop goals to accomplish the things that are Important TO them in ways that are Important FOR them. Do this and the Individualized Plans of the people we support will actually mean something and be useful road maps to help us support people well in moving toward lives they love and not just a formality. After all, that’s why we’re here, right?