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You Are Not Alone: Real Experts for Real Life

This week we celebrate Social Work Week, and we highlight the wonderful and vital contributions that our social workers and social service workers make in the lives of our clients.

This year’s theme for Social Work Week is You Are Not Alone – below, our social workers and social service workers give us a tiny peek into the wide variety of cases they undertake, and how they provide expertise for our clients and show them that they are not alone.

Photo of Faith

You are not alone. Faith is here for you.

“I have been working weekly with a caregiver in the Caregiver Club program to reduce her high stress levels. Throughout my work with her, I secured her grant money from the Alzheimer’s Society, helped her to navigate long-term care options and provided her with caregiver-specific webinars and self-care strategies. And, I realized the impact that my phone calls and conversation with her had, when she said to me one day ‘Faith, I helps me a lot to talk to you. I feel more relaxed and happy when I talk to you.’ I’m reminded that in these isolating times, connection and helping clients feel seen heard and valued makes a big difference.”

Photo of Natalie

You are not alone. Natalie is here for you.

“My client had a stroke and now experiences stiffness and weakness on one side of the body. He has to use a wheelchair and scooter to move around. He also has challenges with speaking and communicating. Having no family or friends to support him, he felt extremely lonely and isolated. I advocated for this client to receive a special communication assistive device, arranged training on how to use it, connected him with a trained Phone Pal volunteer from the Aphasia Institute, advocated for scooter repair and a new wheelchair. My client knows that although he struggles to express himself and explain the problem, I will take my time to listen, to understand, and to find the solution.”

Photo of Bogdana

You are not alone. Bogdana is here for you.

“One of my clients was unexpectedly diagnosed with leukemia. He needed a special procedure to be done twice her week at the hospital and transportation was becoming an issue. I advocated for my client and was able to arrange taxi rides for those times that iRIDE could not assist. As a result of his diagnosis, he was feeling lost and scared. I remembered that he used to write short sarcastic poems and read me a few of them, and I loved it. During this hard time, I called him and asked him to write a few new poems every week so he could share them with me. He was so happy to hear that. He was grateful for the support and for appreciating his work. It lifted his mood. So every week that I follow up with him, I listen to a new wonderful poem, and just for a minute we can both smile.”

Photo of Elinor

You are not alone. Elinor is here for you.

“My client applied for Medical Assistance in Dying due to her progressive MS condition. Throughout her last few months of life, I supported her emotionally while awaiting approval and ensured she received care and support at home, as she was bedridden. I connected with medical staff to advocate for her application approval and expedition. Prior to the procedure date, I arranged for a COVID-19 test to be completed in her home and for the results to be sent back in time for the procedure. My client was looking forward to the procedure to be done and expressed such gratitude for my support throughout, saying ‘I don’t know where I would be without your support.’ She asked me to listen to ‘Sweet Emotions’ by Aerosmith on the morning of the procedure, which I did. Later that same day, I heard it again on the radio and felt that she had passed and is now resting in peace.”

Photo of Bella

You are not alone. Bella is here for you.

“My client, a Holocaust Survivor, was returning home from rehab and was extremely anxious about it. For the three weeks leading up to her return home, I spoke with her on the phone and FaceTime. I comforted her, listened to her worries, listened to her hard stories from the past and happier ones from her adult life. The time came for her to come home and I met her there together with her daughter. I told her I was there for her whenever she needed me. The next day she called me and told me that she dreamed about me. She said, ‘You’re an angel and I feel you’re always with me. I wouldn’t be this calm at home if it wasn’t for you talking to me all the time and telling me how we’re going to figure this out together.”

photo of Patricia

You’re not alone. Patricia is here for you.

“My client was the primary caregiver for her husband. After he passed away, her own health deteriorated and she was no longer able to live at home, even with supports. She moved to a retirement home and I continued visiting her and providing emotional support. She had a lot of strength and determination and she became involved in many activities, including leading the candle lighting on Fridays for the few Jewish residents there, and the facilitation of a drama club. And despite her increasing weakness, she still managed to keep her independence by using the subway to get to her medical appointments on her own! Unfortunately her health continued to deteriorate and eventually she was placed in Hospice care at Baycrest, where I’ve visited and had the honour of holding her hand for some time, no talk needed. Throughout all this time, I also supported her family by linking them with the resources available and providing comfort. I feel grateful to have been part of her life for a little while.”

Photo of Cathy

You are not alone. Cathy is here for you.

“I had a client who was having difficulty balancing her husband’s care needs while also managing her own needs as her health was deteriorating. She was growing increasingly concerned with ensuring that her husband’s wishes regarding his care were respected when she is no longer able to continue to act as his substitute decision maker (SDM). I helped create advance care plans for both of them, helped the wife set up a Power of Attorney (POA) for herself, and discussed with their children their responsibilities as future SDMs/POAs to follow the advance care plans to the best of their ability for both mom and dad.”

photo of Yana

You are not alone. Yana is here for you.

“My client, a 90-year-old Holocaust Survivor, became extremely depressed after her sister passed away. They had been very close. When the pandemic hit, my client’s home service was put on hold in fear of virus contraction. To help her, I called her several times a week to provide emotional support and two answer any inquiries or concerns. Her service was reinstated with a worker of her choice, which allowed her to be more assured of her safety during this time. She suffered from vertigo, so a lifeline was implemented for her service. For additional support, a volunteer calls her and communicates with her about anything she would like. She is working on her tech skills so she can join a virtual support group as soon as possible.”

Photo of Maria

You are not alone. Maria is here for you.

“My client was nervous about returning home after nearly 8 months of institutionalized care. She lives alone and has minimal informal supports. She also has a considerable change in her physical function. I advocated for her to receive several hours of home care. She also needed her apartment to be renovated to accommodate her disability. The property manager was initially not answering her requests and then informed he that the building was not able to complete some modifications. I educated the client and property manager that housing providers have the duty to accommodate under the Ontario Human Rights Code. She is now able to remain in the same apartment with all the services she needs.”

Photo of Sherin

You are not alone. Sherin is here for you.

“My client was transitioning from the hospital to the community without any identification, housing or finances. I worked with the Canadian Embassy and Toronto Police to verify her identity and obtain ID documentation for her. By having ID documentation, she will be able to be connected to healthcare, housing, and financial support to live independently and safely in the community.”

Photo of Alia

You are not alone. Alia is here for you.

“I worked very closely with a client for two years and unfortunately during the pandemic her health declined and she required palliative care. She had very high anxiety navigating this last chapter and I was able to work closely with her to advocate for additional in-home supports. I worked alongside her daughter, caregivers and medical team to ensure she had care that was specific to her individual needs. Despite many challenges, this client was able to peacefully live out her last days in the way she wanted to.”

Photo of Shmuel

You are not alone. Shmuel is here for you.

My client has been experiencing extreme social isolation and had limited access to services. Because of her mental health issues, she has almost no contact with her family and friends and had conflicts with her direct care providers. I was able to advocate for her and create a customized client-centered care plan to meet her needs. I am also providing supportive counseling weekly with the goal of family reconciliation and reducing her isolation.”

photo of Anna

You are not alone. Anna is here for you.

“Recently, I helped a client referred to IAH COT (Independence at Home Community Outreach Team) with behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia. He had been hospitalized numerous times for
delirium and other dementia-related health concerns. When I visited his home, I knew he would benefit from being hospitalized. EMS was called and after being admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital on a crisis admission, he was diagnosed with severe malnutrition. His daughter was experiencing caregiver burnout and no longer wishing to participate in her father’s care. My client was transferred to Bridgepoint ALC to await admission to long-term care. Coordinated care amongst professionals ensured a seamless transition and advocacy for this vulnerable and complex older adult and his daughter.”