Going Above and Beyond for Our Participants
Rev. Jeff Bert, M. Div., On Lok Lifeways Chaplain
As a chaplain, I have the advantage of seeing On Lok at work “up front and personal” at all centers. The thing that strikes me the most across all centers is the “above and beyond” efforts regularly made by our interdisciplinary staff on behalf of participants. Our quality employees will do whatever they can to advance the welfare of our seniors. A recent example is the work that one social worker in particular did to help a participant get settled back in her home after a hospitalization and nursing home stay.
This participant had suffered the loss of her husband about 12 years ago. After this tragedy, she became deeply depressed and only left her apartment when absolutely necessary. As a result, her apartment became a cluttered mess, reflecting her inner darkness and isolation. She slept on a ratty sofa as a decade passed by.
After joining On Lok several months ago, she began coming to the Day Health Center and “waking up,” as she put it. She started to feel alive again as the medical and therapeutic staff engaged her. She enjoyed the movement and socialization offered by the activities staff. So it was a disappointment when this progress was hindered by a fall and subsequent hospitalization during the holidays. Next she had to stay in a nursing facility for some weeks. But she got better and soon it was time to return home. She would require home assistance from geriatric aides, but she was embarrassed for anyone to see her apartment. Her social worker dispelled her shame and convinced her to allow him to help clean the place up. It was a big project. The apartment was covered in old papers and years-old mouse droppings. This social worker put in several hours (including, I believe, some personal time) to clean the place, all the while empowering the participant to choose what would be thrown out or kept.
It was the participant who told me about this, beaming (yet still admitting to feeling embarrassed). “I was basically dead for a decade. Now I feel like facing life again,” she told me. The cleaned-up apartment is providing a big psychological lift for her. “And he found a bed for me so I don’t have to sleep on the sofa, and new sheets as well,” she said. “He’s a miracle-worker!”
When I went to talk to the social worker, he was very self-effacing. “I’m no saint; I just looked at the situation and realized I was the person in a position to help,” he said with a shrug. He added: “These are relationships, and I get so much from our participants. It’s not all one-way. We enrich each other as we do this work.”