Social Work in the Public Eye (February 2013)

Megan SalisburyNASW student member Megan Salisbury recently received a Martin Luther King Jr. Student Service Leadership Award, which was announced in an article in the Downtown Devil, the online student publication of Arizona State University in Phoenix.

Salisbury received the award in recognition of her work helping homeless veterans and the LGBT communities in Arizona. She says in the article that she is passionate about her work because it helps vulnerable people. She also says volunteering is her way of challenging herself.

“I will never be able to solve every person’s problem in our community,” she says in the article. “But if I help one person smile, then my work for that day is done.”

According to Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Arizona State University Gammage executive director and MLK committee chair, all of the people who applied for the award were “fantastic,” but Salisbury “is a born student leader and deserves the award.”

“It was the depth of Megan’s commitment and her passion and her humility that helped us as a community to choose Megan,” Jennings-Roggensack says in the article.

She adds the amount of volunteer work Salisbury does is impressive, but the fact that she also helps the LGBT community made her stand out from the other award applicants.

“I try to diversify my work,” Salisbury says. “I try to do things that most people turn their head at, because you don’t truly learn about a population until you see the full picture.”

Salisbury, who is a senior pursuing a BSW at Arizona State, dedicates much of her time helping homeless veterans find food and shelter. She says in the article that she was “overwhelmed and honored to receive the award,” and adds that she volunteers because she wants to.

“Volunteering is immensely rewarding, and not just ‘I can put it on my resume,’” she says. “It fills your heart with a passion that you don’t see or are able to witness every day, and textbooks only teach so much.”

On NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” a segment titled Preparing for the Looming Dementia Crisis examines the issue of the predicted increase in the number of people with dementia and what families and health care providers can do to prepare.

“The number of us affected by dementia, nearly five and a half million for Alzheimer’s alone, can only go up as the huge cohort of baby boomers ages,” said “Talk of the Nation” host Neal Conan. “Doctors and researchers have thus far made more progress toward early diagnosis than to any effective treatment, but institutions, from long-term care facilities to state and federal agencies to doctors’ offices, seem unprepared for what science reporter Stephen Hall describes as the dementia plague.”

Claudia Fine,NASW member Claudia Fine, chief professional officer at SeniorBridge elder care services, discussed with Conan how families can prepare to take care of an older family member with dementia.

“… It (dementia) happens to 80 percent of the people over the age of 85. So the likelihood of someone who survives past 85 is that they will have some form of dementia,” Fine says in the segment. “So if we all can sort of wrap our minds around that, we can begin thinking about it.”

Fine adds that seeing the onset of the illness as something that is unavoidable can help a person to prepare mentally and financially, assign health care proxies and get professional advice.

She suggests looking into getting financial advice, going to an elder law attorney and getting a care manager involved.

“All of these things early on can help,” she says.

According to the World Health Organization, as noted in the segment, about 36 million people worldwide suffer from some degree of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, and experts predict the number is set to double by 2030. Most families and health care systems are largely unprepared, the segment transcript says.

“ … I have to say that there is a lot of information out there, and maybe we in the industry, we as health care workers, are not doing a good enough job of letting people know that there are more solutions,” Fine says. “Families should not have to do this alone, and there are enough resources. And if they’re not, then we need to reallocate resources. We spend a lot of money in terms of trying to find a cure, but how much have we really spent in terms of care? And I think that’s what we have to look at.”

Larry RoserNASW member Larry Roser is featured in an article in the San Antonio Express-News about the Low Vision Resource Center, a nonprofit in Texas that serves blind and visually impaired residents.

At 63 years old, Roser has been blind for most of his life. In the early 1970s, Roser says he became aware of assistive devices. As technology advanced, prices went down and availability went up. Today, Roser is able to read emails and newspapers and send Facebook messages to his friends with the help of voice-activated software and the assistive technology available through his phone.

The article says that Roser also uses the services of the San Antonio-based Low Vision Resource Center, which offers two programs — the Low Vision Club and Owl Radio — to help blind and visually impaired residents.

Roser says in the article that listening to speakers and interacting with other members at Low Vision Club meetings opened his mind to more opportunities.

“It is a vital service,” Roser says. “I think people ought to call and find services that are available and they can have a happy life, just like me.”

The Low Vision Club, with 900 members, was established in 1997 and is one of the largest programs of its kind in the country. Low Vision Resource Center’s Executive Director Bill Phelps says the services offered by the organization are a unique resource in San Antonio and South Texas.

“We were established to address problems and challenges that visually impaired and blind individuals face that can’t be met by anyone else,” Phelps says in the article. “We can put them in touch with a lot of resources in the community that can assist them. We’ve already done the ground work; we can help them get to the assistance they need in a much quicker way.”

Roser, who is vice president of the Alamo Council of the Blind and a Red Cross volunteer, received the San Antonio Social Worker of the Year award in 2007.