By Dorian Froelich, LMSW
Chief Social Work Officer, Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

As Social Work month comes to a close, my question to you is “What’s in your back pocket?

We all have something.  Look at the person walking towards you…she is a single mother who works all day and then goes home to care for her elderly mother and two young children, falling into bed late into the night, exhausted, only to get up and do it all again the next day.  Or look to the man sitting next to you…his father just passed away and he has to figure out his mother’s finances because dad never shared their personal information.  Or how about the receptionist who greats you every day with a smile on her face…she just found out her husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

That’s what I mean when I ask “what’s in your back pocket?”  We all have something.

As Social Workers in a nursing and rehabilitation center, our primary responsibility is to care for our residents.  However, we also understand the back-pocket effect.  For example, we often are tasked with securing a safe and appropriate discharge for a resident who came in short-term, and often the resident needs to rely upon a support system comprised of family and friends in order to get that done.  Along with assessing the resident’s needs, the social worker assesses the caregivers’ strengths and weaknesses…perhaps the elderly mother can benefit from the care and socialization afforded within an Adult Medical or Social Model Day Care, effectively easing the daughter’s stress and giving everyone in the family a better quality of life.

Remember the gentleman who now has to figure out his father’s finances?  We help him to know that he doesn’t have to do it alone.  A referral to a case manager or eldercare attorney might give him the direction he needs.  A Social Worker might work with him to figure out who the best person would be; how involved are the finances; is there a house involved; what homework needs to be done for caring for his mother down the road?

The receptionist, though she is physically ready and able to care for her husband, is wondering how she will cope with the changes in her life.  The relationship they’ve shared for the past 33 years will change; the dynamics of the daily rituals will no longer be the same.  The social worker will help them both prepare for what’s ahead of them.  There will be some concrete tasks such as setting up a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy.  But there will also be support offered, a referral to the Alzheimer’s Association, support groups to attend and guidance on how to approach their future together.

The Social Worker understands that the health care professional caring for your loved one also has a back pocket.  Social Workers often provide support and in-services helping the caregiver manage, keeping whatever they have safely in their pocket.   The healthcare professional is trained not to let what they “own” mingle with their client’s daily lives and needs.

Should your own back pocket be too full, please consider reaching out for some guidance and support.  Hospitals and rehabilitation centers have social workers on staff who are ready to help.  Both Nassau County and Suffolk County Department of Social Services have an Office of the Aging that can provide referrals and assistance.  There are community agencies that can be accessed.

March is Social Work Month, a time to recognize the skill, compassion and generosity of the Social Workers who tirelessly help others, and to remind those with full back pockets that Social Workers are here to help.

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

― Booker T. Washington

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