Teddy Dagnachew, a CNA and CMA at the Nova Center in Edmond, says each of the intellectually disabled residents there have much to offer in life.


by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer

Everyone has value at the Nova Center. The Nova Center is a 16-bed specialized intermediate care facility in Edmond for adults with intellectual disabilities. There are a lot of folks with physical disabilities as well.
The staffing pattern is a one to four ratio on the day shift. A nursing facility by license, its main focus as an ICFID is the training they do with the residents to help them develop the skills they need to be more independent.
“That’s what separates us from the typical nursing home,” said Bonnie Wells, executive director of EARC (Employment and Residential Centers)
EARC’s mission is to provide a better quality of life and encourage greater independence to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Some of the residents have been able to graduate to a home group setting in the EARC group homes, but this is rare at the Nova Center due to the severity of physical problems coinciding with intellectual disabilities. Several of the individuals have been at the Nova Center since it opened in 1989.
“So it is their life home, and we hope that if they go anywhere it would be moving to a more independent group home,” she said. “We hope we are able to keep them for as long as possible because this is a very home-like setting, a family-like setting,” Wells said.
The residents have known their roommates for many years. Turnover is usually when a resident passes away due to their medical condition.
“All of us want to stay in our home forever. And change is really hard on this population, especially since the majority of folks have some type of communication deficits,” Well said. “Many are non-verbal, so it’s difficult for those to communicate their needs.”
A stable staff is vital for the residents at Nova Center, someone they recognize and feel comfortable with, so that their needs can be met, Wells continued. Thirteen of the 16 residents are able to go to work at the work center The Trails and enjoy the opportunity.
It takes a lot of preparation to get them to work every day. Many of them have special diets. In another center these residents might be considered as total care, Wells explained.
“They take a well-prepared special meal to their work place, and if they need assistance eating there they get that there,” Wells said.
The Nova Center employs a registered nurse, CNAs, CMAs and advanced CMAs.
Teddy Dagnachew is a certified medication aide and a certified nurses’ assistant at the Nova Center. He is the kind of guy who will do whatever he is asked to do for the care of the residents, Wells said.
“He’s really good with the residents, very observant.,” she said. “If there’s any changes with behavior or anything like that, he’s going to be reporting that and making sure all his residents are taken care of.”
She said the residents love him. All of the staff is loving and caring with the residents, Wells added.
“Working here is more than work, it is a passion,” said Dagnachew, who has worked at the Nova Center for nearly five years. “We have a lot of interesting clients to work with. It’s a great environment to work in. And the experience I’ve got here with this community is kind of interesting in what you learn from them by helping them every single day to achieve in their life.”
Residents offer unconditional love, Dagnachew said. They are welcoming in their own ways.
“If you deeply go into their world and try to learn about them, get to know them, they have their special ways that they communicate with you,” Dagnachew said. “And you’ll be very amazed what they will be able to do. They can be able to advance, and that’s what I love about them.”
The residents teach how to love, Dagnachew said. It does not matter how stressful life can be outside of the Nova Center. Once he walks into the facility and is welcomed by the residents, he finds a piece of their communication that lightens up his day.
“You want to do more and more every day,” said Dagnachew, who also works as the activity coordinator for Brookdale Village near Hefner and May in Oklahoma City.
He said that the Nova Center gives him a peace of mind when returning home. The residents do a lot of things to help him help them.
During his leisure time, Dagnachew love spending his time with his family. He has a daughter and a fiancé. He met his fiancé when she previously worked at EARC.
“We come up and visit on the weekend. So it’s more like a family,” he said.