Social Worker Staff Spotlight: Karry Lopez
A Calling to Hospice Care
While Karry Lopez was pursuing her master’s degree in social work at the University of Georgia, she met a hospice social worker who inspired her path for supporting patients and families.
“When this social worker explained hospice to me, it was like a light bulb went off and I knew instantly that this field was for me,” she said. “There is a spiritual component to hospice care. There are not many experiences more profound than supporting someone at the end of one journey and the beginning of a new one.”
From Guatemala to Atlanta
In between positions serving as a hospital and hospice social worker, Karry completed mission work in Guatemala. She lived in an indigenous village and worked at a school for girls who normally would not have received an education. “This was a life-changing, eye-opening experience,” she said.
Karry returned to Atlanta with this broadened, international perspective and joined the Crossroads Hospice team in 2010. One of the aspects Karry most enjoys she most enjoys about working with Crossroads is serving patients in their own homes. “You are connecting with people on a different level than in the hospital,” she said. “Families are inviting you into their lives, and it’s such a privilege.”
Supporting Our Families
Karry notes the importance of providing full support to families and caregivers. “We need to make sure we care for our families just as deeply as we do for our patients, so they do not carry a stressful or traumatic experience with them. We want our family members to feel that they allowed themselves to be a son, daughter or husband during this time.”
At Crossroads, Karry’s goal is to step into a patient’s shoes with an empathetic heart. Patients and families may not always know what steps they want to take or the resources available to them, so she tunes in to the patient’s wishes to help identify a plan.
Mentoring the Next Generation
Each semester, Karry serves as a mentor to several master’s level social work students at area universities to pass on her rich experience to the next generation of care providers. “Social work becomes a part of you. When you teach somebody what you do and why, it helps you grow in your field.”
Karry views the internship as an open forum for her students to share the struggles they face as new social workers, such as supporting family members through the loss of a loved one. “The struggles are opportunities for us to become better social workers.”
Making Connections Large and Small
Through the Ultimate Gift program, Karry has gone above and beyond to create special moments for patients. In several cases, she’s reunited patients with family members from out of town. “One patient had not seen his brother in over 10 years. We brought them together for his birthday. Another woman wanted to mend her relationship with her grandson, and we were able to reunite them before she passed. My role as a social worker is about helping with this closure – to help people go into their last days knowing they are right with the world and with their family.”
Karry celebrated a patient’s Polish heritage with a polka party complete with a live polka band, dancing and traditional Polish food. She also honored a patient’s lifelong passion for painting with an art exhibition of his works and champagne reception.
Karry believes that “doing more” for the patients and families of Crossroads Hospice means being there when it counts. Some of Karry’s most meaningful connections happen through a smile or eye contact with a patient at his bedside. “It’s not about being thanked. It’s about knowing you were there. So many times people underestimate the importance of simply being there for others. That is the best feeling.”
Honoring Our Social Workers during National Social Work Month:
We’re proud to honor Karry as our Crossroads Hospice “Staff Spotlight” recipient during March, National Social Workers Month, and recognize our social workers who are caring more for our patients and families each day, such as: Kristin Kitzmiller in Cleveland; Teresa Henson in Cincinnati; Joyce Glasper in Memphis; and Patti Presson in Oklahoma City.