Sunflower staff guides clients through crisis with activities, support

Madison Scheuerman and Karl Schwenneker entertain one another while staying home during the pandemic. Scheuerman is a Sunflower Diversified Services direct-support professional; Schwenneker is a Sunflower client.

Like virtually everyone else on the planet, people supported by Sunflower Diversified Services have adapted to new schedules and activities during the global pandemic.

Sunflower serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and delays in central Kansas.

Madison Scheuerman, direct-support professional, is one of many Sunflower staff members who interact one-on-one with clients. She has created a number of activities at one of Sunflower’s two group homes such as coloring, making slime, painting and enjoying the outdoors in the yard and on walks around the neighborhood.

Clients went from going to work every day to being at home every day,” Scheuerman said. “They like doing these fun things and I know they are enjoying them. I always see the smiles.”

Nevertheless, she added, “they definitely want to go back to work. Clients miss the work itself and the camaraderie with peers and staff.

“I’m sure this isn’t easy for them but they are making the best of the situation. It is not easy going from daily employment to staying home. But everyone is doing an amazing job. Keeping clients busy and engaged is our goal each day.”

Jennifer Tucker, another direct-support professional, provides day services to clients. One in particular lives alone and enjoys her independence.

“We go on walks if the weather is nice, work on jigsaw puzzles and coloring,” Tucker said. “She enjoys the walks and the coloring and will help me with a puzzle by handing the pieces to me. She is handling the changes well.”

Amanda Urban, director of adult services, echoed some of the comments from direct-support professionals.

“The individuals we support are managing incredibly well with all the changes in their day-to-day lives,” Urban said. “They do want to go back to work; they miss the work, their peers and staff members. It is a mix of all three.”

In some instances, clients have been working and earning paychecks at home. For example, they have been disassembling books for recycling; shredding paper with small machines; and sorting recyclables.

Staff members deserve much of the credit for these successes, Urban commented. “They are doing a fantastic job of meeting individuals’ needs during this unprecedented time.

“They have come up with creative ideas to keep everyone busy and productive. Examples include organizing a number of kits – cooking kits, gardening kits and arts-and-crafts kits.”

In addition, staff and clients have been touring surrounding towns and taking advantage of sight-seeing opportunities.

The direct-support staff has achieved success, in part, because of the proactive leadership-team members, Urban noted. These include Executive Director Jon Prescott; Medical Services Director Brandy Loomis, RN; Human Resources Director Vicki Keffer; and Chief Financial Officer Shelby Zuniga.

“These leaders keep everyone informed about ever-changing information from local, state and federal governments,” Urban explained. “Our in-house communication system keeps staff and clients’ families in the know.”

Sunflower operates with guidance from the Governor’s Office and InterHab, the statewide advocacy support network that serves people with special needs.

“We are being conservative and following all the guidelines,” Urban said. “We watch for symptoms, and are diligent every day about taking temperatures and handwashing as we strive to keep everyone safe.”

Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 54th year.

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