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Social Work in the Public Eye (July 2012)

Jeannie Krause-TaylorNASW member Jeannie Krause-Taylor created the agency Pathways to Aging eight years ago to assist the elderly in late-life transitions, according to an article in The Telegraph (Alton IL). The agency provides in-home, geriatric-care management, counseling and coaching to people caring for their retired parents.

“I always had a great relationship with my grandma and great-grandma when I was young,” said Krause-Taylor, LCSW. “After working with seniors through the health care industry for a number of years, I realized there was a real need for someone who could help them and their children adjust as their needs changed.”

In honor of Mother’s Day this past May, Pathways to Aging hosted a series of seminars in the Alton, Ill., area. The presentations were geared toward mother-daughter relationships and offered tips on stress management, maintaining a mutually supportive relationship and developing support systems.

Pathways is staffed by 18 people, mostly clinical social workers, and was originally developed with seniors in mind, the article says. It has now expanded to include the needs of adults who are taking care of their parents in addition to their own families.

“I offer help with geriatric-care management,” Krause-Taylor said. “Everything is done in the client’s home. We want to help seniors and their adult caregivers — usually their children — to have a positive experience and happy life.”

Those interested in Pathways services first undergo an in-home assessment, which includes an observation of financial, legal, social, physical and cognitive needs. Clients may also be offered a memory and depression screening with a written recommendation for both short- and long-term goals.

“We look at how they function in their home; what kind of formal support system they have, like family members and informal support, like neighbors,” Krause-Taylor said. “We sit down with the senior, family members and caregivers and discuss our assessment. We also look at long-term needs and what may need to happen down the road.”

“At some point, they may want to consider some type of senior housing,” she said, “and we can open the discussion on that subject, which is often difficult for an adult child.”

Krause-Taylor says she bases many of her practices on her own experience of taking care of her 83-year-old mother and 92-year-old father, and she understands firsthand the difficulties that can arise from supporting aging parents.

Jane MillerUmaya, a golden retriever, has star potential for helping the clients of social worker

Jane Miller, who was recently honored as Social Worker of the Year for Region 2 of the NASW Ohio Chapter. According to an article in Ohio’s The Chronicle-Telegram, Miller noticed the positive effects her dog had on her patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. Miller, an NASW member, became certified in 2004 as a therapy and service animal behavioral consultant, and began to train psychiatric service dogs to help her clients.

“The dogs know they’re doing the right thing,” Miller says in the article. “I have clients who never left their house before getting their service dogs. The dogs help them navigate the world.”

Miller says people are able to find new resources within themselves once they are paired with an animal that is especially trained to help them.

A firm believer in the therapeutic power of dogs, Miller published a book in 2010 called Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives. In it, she describes how dogs can help anyone going through or overcoming a wide range of emotional illnesses, such as anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD and depression.

Miller appeared on the PBS program “Health Visions: Animals as Healers,” and has spoken at The Cleveland Clinic and the International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants Conference. She has also worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs regarding the use of psychiatric service dogs to assist soldiers returning home from war and suffering from PTSD.

Dogs from all breeds are considered for training, Miller says, but she prefers working with shelter dogs. During training, the animals are reinforced with treats until the teaching becomes second nature.

Miller’s clients are paired with a dog that best suits their needs and lifestyle.

Her book answers questions such as where to find a dog, how the training process works, which breeds will work best, what the dogs are trained to do and how to get financial assistance.

Forrest HongThe “sandwich generation,” according to NASW member Forrest Hong, LCSW, represents the baby boomers who find themselves in a position where they have to simultaneously take care of their children and elderly parents while working full time.

In the online “Mind Your Body” video segment called Build a Better Boomer, hosted by Stephanie Stephens, Hong discusses managing the care of retired parents and the stress associated with the responsibilities of raising children and caring for parents within the same household.

Hong, who is vice president of Your Care Manager in California, says in the video that a good first step is to sit down with mom and

dad and talk about options. Begin with planning, Hong says, and get advice from elder-care professionals. Working full time and raising young children can take up a lot of time, he says, and he suggests enlisting the help of a home-care agency to save time and alleviate some of the strain of finding help.

Hong advises looking into insurance options as a way to finance home care, which he admits can get expensive. Re-mortgaging property, asking friends and family to chip in and using savings are other ways to pay for care.

Home care is not part of any government entitlement program, Hong says, so families who have planned ahead for long-term care insurance can have at least a portion of it covered.

Those looking for an agency should keep in mind that they can use the competition of other similar agencies as leverage to negotiate better rates, he says.

“There are thousands of agencies out there. … There is a tremendous amount of competition among agencies,” Hong says. “The consumer is at a benefit.”

The No. 1 thing is to make sure a health care professional that comes into the home is bonded in order to safeguard against something being taken or broken, he says.

Hong advises having a written, detailed list of responsibilities for the person to perform while on duty – one that is mutually agreed upon. A caregiver can perform a multitude of tasks, including bathing, dressing and engaging the person in their care in social activities.