Social work is an incredibly important and often misunderstood sector of society at large. Social workers the world over are integral in their contributions to their communities – nearly every sector of society has some semblance of social work involved within it, from hospitals to police, schools to nonprofits. Every one of us benefits from the presence and work of social workers, and on March 15, 2022, the world takes time out to celebrate the vast contributions of social work and social workers around the globe, as they do every third Tuesday in March since 2007.
The theme of World Social Work Day this year is “Co-Building a New Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind.” This year’s focus centers on creating new global practices, policies, and values “that develop trust, security, and confidence for all people and the sustainability of the planet.” This focus celebrates diversity and the coming together of social workers the world over to enable all people to have their dignity respected through shared futures and to “engage all communities so they can have their say in what kind of collective world they want to live in.”
When it comes to aging, and the issues that aging adults face, social workers are oftentimes the biggest advocates for quality care. Social workers can help with both delivering care and supporting the caregivers, planning services and advocating for policy change, and delivering services directly while managing the services that individuals receive. Social workers are often on the front lines when it comes to meeting the needs of a growing aging population, and ensuring those needs get met through educating and empowering individuals to advocate for themselves is no small task. Collaborating with patients, their families, and their medical team, social workers help connect aging seniors to community support services, like the ones provided by VANTAGE Aging. Understanding what is needed, a social worker can help bridge the gap between the care team and the servicer; this makes social workers an essential support and part of the care team of any individual who needs it, regardless of age. And now, more than ever before, social workers are heroes of healthcare, as their services provide hope in a time that can seem bleak for families and patients. As long as there are people born, living, and dying, social workers will remain an important fixture in our communities.
Here at VANTAGE Aging, we have two full-time staff member who bring their backgrounds as social workers into their work on the customer care team with Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio – Lorinda Zepernick and Jennifer Kanney-Beebe. These two women work with the entire team of MOWNEO to ensure everyone needing meals are set up on the appropriate meal program and given excellent customer service that really makes what the work the program does unique. It is incredibly important to have social workers on the team because their backgrounds and work lead them to consider the holistic needs of the clients we serve, not just the nutritional ones.
“Being a social worker allows me to be mindful of not only their need for meals, but their needs in general,” Lorinda explains. “With my background as a social worker, I have been able to develop resources for clients because the need definitely goes beyond meals at time. They may need other things, and we want to be able to respond to that. Because I am a social worker, it is part of my DNA, so to speak, to not leave it at meals because I am able to provide customer care to them holistically.”
“The entire Meals on Wheels of Northeast Ohio team – including kitchen and site staff, drivers, and volunteers – takes the safety and wellbeing of the clients very seriously, and they all work together to inform the social workers of concerns they may have for the clients. “It helps us view each client from a broader standpoint, not just as someone who needs meals. And the entire team sees it that way. Each staff member and volunteer cares about each client in their own way, and coming together to ensure we are meeting as many of their needs as we are able is really something special,” Lorinda adds. “From working with other agencies in our past, Jennifer and I are comfortable reaching out to other services. We can advocate for each client to get this help because they may not know how to get through the red tape, so to speak,” which Lorinda says oftentimes prevents people from getting help in the first place.
“If they do not know where to look, they will not know how to find what they need. We help with that, and that allows us to serve them more than just a meal.”
And, as Jennifer also leads VANTAGE Aging’s Home Wellness Solutions program, her background and advocacy are perfectly aligned to meet the needs of all the home care clients we serve as well. From Chore services to in-home care, Jennifer’s team is led by a social worker who takes to heart the holistic needs of the clients, providing the resources and support that benefits each individual the most. We are honored to have dedicated social workers on our staff, and we celebrate and honor their work and commitment to quality client care and service, not only on World Social Work Day, but every single day. We couldn’t do what we do without their care, compassion, and connections they bring to every client we serve.
We hope you join us in celebrating the tireless, sometimes thankless and invisible work that social workers do every day across the globe to benefit everyone and ensure that no one gets left behind. Social workers are truly on the frontlines of care, and it is through their diligent work that so many agencies and organizations – including VANTAGE Aging – are able to meet the needs of all clients who rely on them.