When Sam Hooley, Med-Flex at Ashley Court, came to ADEC 25 years ago, he was just looking for a job, but after several well-meaning pushes from his supervisors, he found a career.
Sam had just moved back from living in Kansas, where he worked overnights. His brother-in-law worked as a shift supervisor at ADEC Industries and told him he should consider working at ADEC. He said relief would be a good place to start if someone had never worked with people with disabilities.
Sam took his advice and started working overnights as relief staff. He enjoyed going to different houses and getting to know people, so he decided he was happy to stay relief. However, the manager at Foster Avenue had a different take on it.
The manager noticed how Sam worked well with clients and decided he needed Sam to work there full time. He talked it over with Sam, but Sam disagreed, saying he enjoyed his current position. The manager refused to hear any argument, so Sam started as full-time staff at Foster Avenue the next week.
Sam spent eight years working at Foster Avenue. During this time, he began to understand his role at ADEC – helping people realize their full potential.
“I knew I enjoyed working with what they called ‘low functioning’,” Sam explained. “But by no means, are they ‘low functioning.’ They are just as smart as anyone else.”
Sam decided it was time for a change, so he interviewed for a transfer to Ashley Court, where the guys have greater needs. He remembers the moment he was hired.
“I went to Ashley Court, and I was talking with Richard,” Sam said. “I said , let me go talk with some of the other guys. As I walked away, the manager asked, ‘You know what he was saying?’ I said, ‘Well, yes, it seemed very clear to me.’ The manager said, ‘No one understands Richard. What can we do to keep you here?’”
Sam’s condition? Always have potatoes on hand so he can enjoy a baked potato. Thus began a 17 year journey.
Over the years, Sam’s role at Ashley Court has evolved. He became the Med-Flex after several people had come and gone. Bonnie, the manager at the time, kept asking Sam to at least consider the position. He finally relented and found his perfect niche at ADEC. Sam prides himself on his attention to detail and thoroughly filling out each person’s paperwork. It’s been at least 10 years since he made the switch, and he is a walking encyclopedia of health information and resources for the people he serves.
When a consumer has an appointment on one of his off days or he’s away on vacation, the doctors and nurses always ask, “Where’s Sam?” They then follow it up with, “Ok, well, be sure to tell Sam _______.”
“I have often been told, out of everybody who bring ADEC clients to the doctor, I come in the most prepared, and they appreciate it,” Sam said with a smile. “It means a lot to me when they say that.”
Sam feels the reason for this is simply that he has been with the clients so long. In the early days, he worked with doctors on speaking directly with consumers rather than just addressing Sam. Since breaking this barrier, there’s a more open communication flow between each consumer and doctor. Also, since Sam knows his consumers so well, he can easily tell when something is even just a little off.
Over the years, Sam has learned the most important thing he can do is help each consumer realize his or her full potential and teach them to live their lives as independently as possible. He regularly trains staff in his home on how the consumers can do so much more than they think.
One consumer knows Sam understands his ability to clean his room, so he always checks to see if Sam is at the house before he has an outburst and pulls everything out of his closet and drawers. Other staff will clean it for him, but Sam just goes in sits on the bed in a non-threatening manner and approaches it from a medical standpoint. He asks the consumer if anything is hurting, saying each body part one-by-one. He then asks a series of questions to gauge the consumer’s emotional state. After they’ve reached a conclusion, he will tell the consumer which drawer things go in, but he knows the consumer is more than capable of putting his own things back in place.
This philosophy helps Sam to create genuine relationships with the people he serves. He knows them on a very real level and is honest about his expectations.
On Underestimating Abilities:
Clients are smarter than you think. Don’t try to fix them – they’re not broken . . . This is who they are. Get to know them, work with them.
On Staying Calm in Tough Spot:
Just roll with it. All behavior is communication.
Sam’s nickname at Ashley Court is “Hoopty.” Years ago, a consumer liked to complain about Sam Hooley always making them do stuff. One day, the consumer mispoke and said “That Sam Hoopty is always making us doing stuff.” Kelly Wright, manager at the time, heard the “Hoopty” and said, “That’s going to stick.”
Article by Whitney Craig | Communications Specialist
Photo by Rod Tackett | Communications Specialist