Reflections from our Director of Programs and Services for Patient Care

Anna Zelinske, M.A., CRC, CCM joined our staff in the role of Director of Programs and Services for Patient Care last month. Anna has 19 years of experience in the disability field, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Human Service Agency Management from Missouri Valley College, and a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Maryville University. She has a niche for developing and overseeing quality programs with a solid understanding of addressing the needs in the community and working with a team to making a positive impact for those served. In today’s post, Anna shares her story of how she got her start in the disability field and her work at the Chapter so far.

By Anna Zelinske

My work in the disability field began in 1999 when I was a college student in a small Missouri town. In the town was one of the oldest state-run habilitation centers in the country, the Marshall Habilitation Center. There was an ad in the paper recruiting part-time employees to provide direct care services for people with developmental disabilities who lived at the facility. Figuring a $10/hour job is pretty nice, a friend of mine and I applied and were hired.

We spent most of our time supporting those with disabilities to do the typical activities of daily living including dressing, eating, managing their home, cleaning, personal care, etc. We were to complete daily data on programs that my supervisor wrote for them to complete each day. One day I saw that a man, we’ll call him Rick, who I was supporting had a new program to wipe the table off after the meal. He was a younger man who didn’t use speech to communicate and spent most of his day sitting in his favorite chair enjoying the company of his housemates.

I looked at Rick and I wondered if he could do this task. I invited him over and showed him how to wipe off the table and gave him instructions on how to do it himself. He did the task, and looked at me with the biggest and brightest smile I had ever seen from him. It was at this moment that I realized what it felt like to help people learn or adapt skills in order to live as independently as possible. From that moment, I was hooked. In my next job I was working with people to develop the programs based on what they wanted to learn. Soon after I was working at Paraquad as the Director of Independent Living Programs supporting people to live as independently as they chose. Many of the people I worked with had acquired their disability later in life and wanted guidance to adjust to their new normal. It’s been an honor to help people figure out how to do the things they once did, with a few accommodations. My entire career can be tracked back to that moment with Rick. My helping him with his independence wrote the story for the next almost 20 years of my career.

Anna with her husband, Nate, and two sons at the San Diego Safari Park

I’ve been with the ALS Association a little over a month now, and am so honored to be a part of this team. Each person in the office has a uniqueness about them. I’m enjoying getting to know this incredible group of professionals and look forward to what we can all do together to help people manage the impact of this disease.

Each person with ALS that I have met has a unique story. Even though I have worked alongside people with disabilities for years, I was admittedly a little unsure about what it would be like to work with people with ALS and their families. As would be expected, people who are coping with this disease are just people like anyone else. We are all traveling through life hoping for many years of health and happiness. Sometimes life makes other plans, and we are left navigating a world we did not anticipate. While I certainly understand the devastating aspects of the disease, what I have come to see and recognize in the short time I have been here is the incredible strength and positivity in the people I have already met.

I see the love that grows between couples who never thought this would be their story. I see family stepping in to support those they love to live life as best as possible. I see community coming together to raise money for research so we may see a cure for ALS. And I see the people on the ALSA team working to fill in the gaps so that people living with ALS in our community have the things they need to make the best of a hand they didn’t ask for. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be here, and look forward to what’s to come!

If you or someone you know has ALS, or, if you’d like to learn more about how you can support families battling the disease, please visit our website at www.alsa-stl.org.


Photo caption for featured image: Anna and her mother have helped care for her grandmother as she has aged. 

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