The theme of this year’s Social Work Month is “Social Workers are Essential.” With the enormous turmoil of the past year, this statement rings more true than ever. As the National Association of Social Workers states, social workers make invaluable contributions in our society.
At our firm we see firsthand the wonderful work that social workers do, and want to take this opportunity to say, there is no way we can ever thank you enough. So often we have seen people who were alone, suffering, and afraid – and social workers were there to guide them, inform them, and let them know that there was someone who cared about them.
Social workers are active in every aspect of our lives. They assist people from childhood through to the end of life with innumerable challenges. They protect children from abuse and neglect, provide mental health and substance use disorder treatment, help children in schools, treat people with mental illness, work with hospital patients, and so much more. They provide a crucial safety net for people from all walks of life and in all stages of life.
Many people are not aware that social workers also advocate and write policies at a government level. Having them involved when policies are developed is crucial, so that programs are designed and developed in a way that is most helpful to the people who need social work services.
A significant portion of our law practice deals with older adults and other people with disabilities. We have seen that for seniors and disabled people who are dealing with the challenges of long-term care, often a social worker is the first professional to whom they reach out. People being discharged from the hospital are often in need of guidance. They may need assistance in the home, or to find an assisted living or nursing home placement. Social workers are on the front lines of recommending and guiding the course of action these patients will undertake.
Social work is particularly challenging because it requires numerous different, distinct skills. Social workers must be empathetic, encouraging, and patient, but they also need to have the information their clients or patients need, to be able to move forward in the best possible way under their particular circumstances.
A wonderful story from the New York Times describes the way a social worker can save a life. 96-year-old George Crouch had just lost his wife of 46 years to Covid-19, and was very ill with the disease himself. He was despondent, had little will to live, and the medical staff at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx feared the worst. But Captain Eric Dugnan, a trained social worker in the US Army Reserves who was assigned to Mr. Crouch, learned that the latter was a veteran of World War II, and the two bonded over their shared service.
Captain Dugnan stopped by Mr. Crouch’s room several times a day, and Mr. Crouch’s family believes that the friendship that grew between the two men gave their father a reason to live. Slowly Mr. Crouch’s condition improved, and he was finally discharged from the hospital to loud cheers.
This kind of heartwarming story is not a singular event. The lives of social workers are full of similar stories that reward them with the knowledge that they made a positive difference in the life of someone in their care.
All of us at Lamson & Cutner salute these everyday heroes. We have made a concerted effort to educate social workers about Elder Law issues that affect their clients or patients, and provide them with Continuing Education credits. We think it is essential for social workers, and others who work with seniors and disabled people, to understand the possibilities for their clients to do long-term care planning.
In New York, accessing government programs that can help pay for long-term care is almost always achievable if people take the right steps. Knowing about these steps can help social workers become even more valuable to their clients.
With a population that is ever more mobile, more and more seniors and disabled people live far away from family members. Even if family is nearby, often they call on social workers to help them with their loved ones. Our society owes a debt of gratitude to this unsung army of kind and helpful professionals. Please thank a social worker you know today!