Section VI: Health and Safety

In this section, you will learn how to support people to maintain their safety and health, get good nutrition, and understand the importance of personal hygiene and regular medical and dental care. You will also learn about how to watch for eight health conditions that need special attention.

Health and Safety

As a DSP, you have important responsibilities for health and safety in home and community activities. Your agency will provide you with the processes that are used in day-to-day health and safety issues and what to do in case of an emergency. Additionally, many health and safety issues will depend on the type of program in which you work. For instance, DSPs who support people in employment and alternate day options and residential options play a vital role in carefully observing people and in reporting any changes in their behavior, appearance, or habits that may relate to health and safety. Residential staff members often have the additional responsibility of arranging for and accompanying people to doctor or dental appointments. All programs have written guidelines to follow for health and safety and emergency situations and have procedures for reporting critical incidents. As a DSP, become familiar with all agency protocols.

In addition to the information in this section, you will likely receive First Aid and CPR training, as well as health and safety training related to your specific agency, to assist you in helping people stay healthy and safe. You may also receive training and be tested in procedures for safe administration of medication. This chapter is not intended to replace that training. Your role is to help the people you support be safe in all situations, access quality health care when they need it, assist them in learning and using skills that maintain health and safety, and help them to be aware and informed regarding their own health and safety concerns.

Maintaining Good Health through Good Nutrition

People with disabilities have the same needs for good nutrition and proper weight management as people without disabilities. Since developmental disabilities are often associated with other medical conditions, such as epilepsy, allergies, diabetes, and heart problems, you may support people who are required to follow a special diet for health reasons or food allergies.

Fortunately, today there are a variety of food products available for people who have specific food allergies. Many restaurants offer a range of meals and are accustomed to responding to the needs, likes and dislikes of individual diners. Depending on the needs and interests of the people you support, your role may vary. You may help people plan nutritious and well-balanced meals, oversee meal preparation, monitor and encourage appropriate amounts of foods, and/or assist in making healthy food choices when dining out.

Your guidance and assistance will be especially important with aging adults, whose nutritional needs, appetite, and vulnerability to illness are often changing. Just as most of us hope to stay in our home as we grow older, so do the people we support. The supports you provide will play a critical role in helping to make that possible.

For more information on good health through good nutrition go to:

Important Point

As a DSP, it is important to resist the temptation to reward or coax the person you support with food. Food should never be earned, and the people you support may experience the same problems with excess weight as anyone else. When you wish to recognize someone for positive behaviors, offer a meaningful, non-edible reward, which leads to positive experiences such as:

  • a short walk around the neighborhood,
  • a telephone call to a relative or friend,
  • positive verbal praise,
  • an opportunity to talk one-on-one, or
  • a short shopping trip.