What It’s Like Now: Latanae Price, direct support professional at Johnson County Developmental Supports

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re shifting our Shawnee Mission Faces to focus on folks in roles that have been profoundly effected by the virus and response: What life is like now with social distancing, a stay-at-home mandate and the need for essential workers.

A senior direct support professional for Johnson County Developmental Supports, Latanae Price works with people who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities during the day service at the Elmore Center. While the center has been shut down, she helps in the homes of the individuals she supports — things like getting out of bed, getting ready for the day, and other activities at home. In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies with family and doing arts and crafts projects at home (right now, she’s stitching masks). And, before the pandemic, she enjoyed singing in the choir at church. She has two sons and lives in Wyandotte County with her fiance, Darryl, and his mother.

All of a sudden, we woke up and they said we’re closing the workshop. Where is everyone going to go? That was probably one of the first thoughts. I guess it was just kind of a shocking thing.

Johnson County very rarely closes down. They’ve only closed twice since I’ve been working here; I’ve worked with JCDS for 11 years. So for them to close is like wow. I just really thought, this is really happening. This is like a made-for-TV movie or something, a novel. It’s really amazing.

When we found ourselves going into the residences, I had a lot of concern. I thought oh goodness, what if one of the guys gets this thing, or if one of the staff gets it?

My brain was constantly going with how are they going to be able to place us into different places and not have a continual rotation of staff? That would be concerning in itself, so that was a scare right there. And how are we going to keep coming to work, and if someone gets it, what are we going to do?

And yeah, I was scared. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I felt like I should still come to work. Our company did inform us that we would go to work just like a nurse or a doctor or a CNA — which I am a CNA — every day, and yeah you return home to your family every day and if someone here catches it, we will use all the precautions and wear all the proper wear and keep them away from the other guys.

And then I thought about my own self at home. We have a senior citizen at home, and she has a lowered immune system, and I was concerned about what if I’m a carrier? What if I take it home to my family?

I had lots of concern but I prayed about it and I came to work. I don’t want to get spiritual, but I just felt like with lots of prayer, God you’re going to help me do this.

The men that I’m working with in the home right now are very lively gentlemen. They’re used to going out doing things, participating in church, in outings and activities, and now they’re home. I think that it’s been a big impact on them.

The house where I’m at is the dementia house. And it’s a daily thing of communicating as to why they can’t leave the house, why their family can’t come over, and if they do come over, they have to stay 6 feet away, and we have to wear face masks.

You may find yourself talking about why we’re putting on this face mask more than a couple of times a day because they may forget. And you just have to say, well hey, this is the reason why we’re wearing it, so that it can protect you.

Johnson County has gone above and beyond. We even have our own staff to make face masks. I thought that was really wonderful and special because we have very creative face masks that we’re wearing right now. And everybody was able to at least get a couple, and I thought that was even better.

We don’t know how we’ll be able to return or when, and it’s very interesting being able to explain that. A week ago, they had a meeting where all of our guys could join in the meeting on Zoom, and they could see people from the other houses and ISLs, and they could hear for themselves what’s going to take place in the future.

I thought that was really good for our guys to be able to hear more than just the staff saying oh you’re not going back, or hear the people on the news saying you can’t go back right now. They could see the people they work with, other people talking about it.

I consider myself a frontline worker. You’re hearing all the stories about the nurses, the doctors, truck drivers, fast food workers. Maybe the news people who are making the stories haven’t thought about us. I don’t know. But I feel that either they haven’t thought about us or they don’t know of us for some reason. I’m sure Johnson County considers us essential workers, frontline workers, but I can’t say that everyone else sees us in that same view.

Every day, I come to work, it’s something different, there’s something new. But I’m happy to be able to be here for these guys every day. Keep going, keep helping, keep working, keep doing what you’re doing. It may not seem like a lot but if I wasn’t here helping, who would be?