Thoughts from Our 2013 Caring More Recipients

undefinedMoira Keller LCSW Clinical Coordinator of Geriatric Social Work Sixty Plus Older Adult Services at Piedmont Healthcare

Seventeen years ago, I arrived at Sixty Plus, new to Georgia and the southeast, after years of living abroad. I didn’t realize at the time that I had struck gold in terms of professional opportunity and meaningful work. My typical day is diverse, complex, and fascinating. To say that it is also rewarding is a huge understatement. I visit older adults in their homes to assess their functioning, and I work closely with their family caregivers to provide counseling, referrals to community resources, and ongoing education and support. Most of my cases concern patients who have dementia. I work closely with their Piedmont doctors to provide holistic health care which will promote the best quality of life.

A diagnosis of dementia can radically alter the lives of everyone. Patients develop symptoms which are often difficult for their families to observe and manage. Our model of social work at Sixty Plus allows us to be available to families on an ongoing basis. They weave in and out with us, sometimes for years, depending upon the needs of the patient and the needs of the family. We’re able to forge lasting relationships with our cases.

Frequently, I also work with older adults who have life-limiting conditions. They themselves may not realize this, and their families may also not be aware that their loved one is, in fact, appropriate for palliative care or hospice care. I find that it’s a gift to work with such patients, to help them transition into medical care that enhances their comfort. Indeed, several of my most gratifying cases in the past year concerned patients at the end of life.

Regardless of the specific circumstances, I’m always in a position to advocate for my patients. To connect them with the right community resources. To explain a complex home situation to other healthcare providers. To listen to all sides when children disagree about a parent’s care. To understand the grief that a husband experiences when he realizes his wife is dying. As I bear witness to these profound situations, my life is enriched and deepened. It’s why I’ve chosen to be a social worker.

In 2013, I had the great privilege of being the recipient of the Caring More Award from Crossroads Hospice. To have been nominated by my colleagues, and then to have had the wonderful experience of winning, was both humbling and gratifying. I’d like to thank everyone at Crossroads for this honor, and for creating an award that celebrates social work. The generous gift of $500 which accompanied the award was donated to Sixty Plus Older Adult Services at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, where I work. Sixty Plus is a not-for-profit outpatient geriatric program that offers a broad range of services to older patients and their family caregivers. I’m eager to learn more about the next Caring More Award winner and the important contributions this accomplished social worker is making to our community.

I’ve also been excited in recent years to meet dynamic young professionals who are committed to geriatric social work and health care. I urge them to be proud of the intricate work they are doing, and to know how valuable it is. It requires broad knowledge of social policies, family dynamics, and individual human behavior. The ever-changing world of health care demands a lot from those who work in it. But I encourage young social workers to embrace it, because their expertise, and drive to “care more” for the people and communities they serve, is needed more than ever.

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Copyright © 2015 Crossroads Hospice. All rights reserved.

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