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Celebrate Social Work Month

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) introduced National Professional Social Work Month for the first time in March 1963. The original purpose was to encourage public support and interest in social work as a profession. In 1984, the White House officially recognized March as National Professional Social Work Month.

Social work has always been vital to long term care and certainly to nursing homes. While understood and appreciated, the pandemic further highlighted the value of social work both in the pandemic and in what may happen after the pandemic ends.

A 2020 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association described the importance of social work in this way:

“A strong social work presence has always been necessary in nursing homes; the pandemic underscores the need. After the pandemic, the need will continue. Because we are working with people in physically, emotionally, and socially vulnerable circumstances, many of whom are approaching the last chapter of their life, we know that psychosocial concerns will be ever-present. If we are serious about improving the quality of care and the quality of life in nursing homes, we must be serious about psychosocial care.”

What role have LeadingAge NY social workers played in helping residents, their families, staff, and their organizations through the last two years of the pandemic? Here is just a partial list:

“My staff engaged in frequent synchronized Zoom calls with a variety of community agencies to plan complex discharges and have successfully discharged residents back to the community even when community resources were difficult to obtain.”

“Staff was reluctant to allow Compassionate Care visits as they were fearful of the risk of infection. I was able to work with staff to help them better understand the requirements around compassionate care and we were successful in increasing these visits to the benefit of the residents that needed them.”

“A son was reluctant to be tested to visit his mother who missed him terribly. The son was just tired of all the requirements. We understood his frustration and worked with him so that he eventually agreed to testing and the visits resumed. Both the son and his mother were very happy.”

“A resident missed her family as there were visitation restrictions in place. We spoke with the family about bringing in a meal and the resident and family were on a Zoom call having their dinner meal together.”

“When visitation was restricted, and then finally allowed to resume, there were still restrictions as to the number of visitors a resident could have and how long they would be permitted to stay. Families were angry about the limits and would frequently berate staff. We often stepped in as a buffer and later would speak with the staff to try to help them understand the frustrations families were experiencing.”

“I shopped for a resident for her favorite soap as residents could not get out on community outings. She was so happy for this small gesture.”

“At the very beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of confusion and staff was scared about contracting Covid. We worked with the Medical Director to put together a fact sheet to help staff know what was true and what was not.”

(Resident) “I missed being around people because you were told you could not leave your room, the social worker stopped to see me every day just so I would not feel so lonely.”

(Resident) “A lot of the staff were telling me I shouldn’t go out to be with my family for a birthday party. The social worker explained a lot of things to me, and I was able to decide to go after all.”

Social workers, thank you for all you do, and how much you have done to help through these challenging times.

Contact: Elliott Frost, efrost@leadingageny.org, 518-441-8761