We recently asked our staff to begin sharing their accounts of interactions with their clients, and how they have been affected and moved by them. We hope you’ll enjoy these ongoing installments from those special individuals who deliver our much-needed services to our cherished clients. Today’s story comes from a social worker who works in our senior services department…
“As I thought about which client I may speak about this morning, many came to mind. For many senior services clients, we as social workers are the only visit of the week, the only check-in call to ensure that the medical appointment went okay, or that they received their meals-on-wheels. For others, we are the only listening ear or the only person whom they feel they can confide in due to their care-giving or illness stressors. For some, we are literally the only one they have.
Working at JFCS is not a job, but rather a passion, and it truly feels meaningful to support the needs of the community. I have been working with seniors more than 8 years. I suppose it was something that has come more than natural to me, growing up with 6 grandparents and always being the ‘go-to’ person for all of them. Working with many caregivers, often caring for someone with a primary diagnosis or co-morbidity of a dementia-related diagnosis has given me a perspective and understanding of patience and commitment.
It was one day in the Fall of 2010 that an out-of-town son from a far-away country came into the JFCS office seeking advice for his elderly parents- his mom was a caregiver for his father with Alzheimer’s. This couple literally had, and still has, no one in the immediate area should an emergency arise, or should they need assistance with their daily routine. Due to the time frame involved when the son would still be visiting, an assessment was scheduled within the week.
Mrs. K* was at her dining-room table with her arms crossed in front of her, appearing closed-mouthed and angry, awaiting the arrival of ‘this social worker.’ This position and expression she exhibited remained for the entire assessment, as she refused to speak or partake in this assessment, and begrudgingly signed the necessary documents, including releases of information and client confidentiality, under pressure from her son.
Fast-forward, and I started receiving calls stating that her out-of-town son suggested she call to get Power of Attorney and Living Will documents in place. These documents were obtained, witnessed, and notarized through JFCS. Following this time, after over a year of working with the clients, Mrs. K purchased a home emergency response system, after we recommended she do so- realizing that her husband could no longer dial the telephone, nor understand when or if to call 911.
It was only weeks after purchasing this system, that Mrs. K fell in the kitchen while boiling rice, and was able to push the emergency button for immediate assistance and an escort to the Emergency Room to find out it was related due to a need for a pacemaker and a growth on her brain. It was this week during a hospital visit that Mrs. K told me, “You saved my life.”
Slowly, but surely, Mrs.K agreed to accept things like holiday meal deliveries and rides to medical appointments, and she even started to call me, “just to say hello.” Our quarterly visits were not only allowed, but now enjoyed – with a request that tea and cookies must be a part of this visit.
Most recently, Mrs. K enrolled her husband in an Adult Medical Day Center three days per week, providing her respite, all free through the Veterans Administration, at the suggestion of the JFCS. Now, as a testament to Mrs. K’s experience, several of her friends and friends’ children have called JFCS and requested to become a client of JFCS, wanting the comfort and reassurance that Mrs. K has attested to.
Last week for Thanksgiving meal deliveries, one of JFCS’ board members was assigned to deliver meals to Mrs. & Mr. K. As I was in the office when this board member returned, she shared the couples’ rave reviews and praise for all that JFCS does for them. The board member told Mrs. K that she would be sure to “tell her social worker everything that she has said.” To which Mrs K responded, ‘There is no need, you don’t need to tell her, I tell her myself every time that I speak with her, which is quite often. After all, she is the daughter I never had.’
Whether it is running a caregiver support group, visiting a client in the home, or receiving a call from an out of town child, my role confirms that I am in the right place to make a difference for my clients.”
* Client names are changed to protect confidentiality