March is National Social Work Month, a wonderful opportunity to recognize those special individuals who work tirelessly on behalf of Friendly Home Members. While social workers wear many hats, one of their most important roles is helping seniors and their loved ones bridge the gap between their old lives and homes and their new ones.
Imagine being an older adult living in your own home. You may be facing some of the typical issues associated with aging – perhaps having difficulty climbing stairs, forgetting to take medications or just finding it harder to manage daily tasks on your own. But mostly you are ok and comfortable where you are. Then, imagine experiencing a life-changing health crisis: for instance, a stroke or a serious fall. While in the hospital, you learn that you won’t be going back to your home, but rather the time has come for nursing home care. Imagine not having the opportunity to say goodbye to your beloved home and belongings, perhaps even a pet.
In this scenario, moving unexpectedly to a nursing home can understandably cause a range of feelings, including anxiety, fear of the unknown, grief, sadness, depression, confusion, loss of control and independence. Social workers refer to this as “transfer trauma” – you are in a new place, with new faces and new routines, likely with physical limitations, and are having a difficult time adjusting.
Nursing home social workers play a critical role for new Members during this life transition. They are trained to look for signs of the issues described above, and to connect Members with the right resources and support to help smooth the way:
- Visiting with Members to talk about their challenges, and to get to know them as individuals with unique preferences and stories. Forming meaningful relationships is a very important part of the adjustment process.
- Connecting Members with professionals who can help, such as a psychological nurse or pastoral care coordinator.
- Encouraging Members to join conversations and activities with their peers, who often have common life experiences that they can share only with each other. Having a friend can make all the difference in settling in.
- Fostering opportunities that Members may not have had in their home setting – for instance, spending time outdoors, visiting with school children or therapy dogs, participating in sing-alongs or helping out with a community service project. It may take some time to find the right fit, but the effort is more than worth it!
We salute our social workers for all that they do on behalf of our Members and families, and thank them for their efforts in easing what can be one of life’s most difficult transitions.
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