March is social worker month, and the theme is “Social Workers: Generations Strong.” We visited with Social Services Director Janelle Erickson to learn more about the work social workers do and how they help serve the residents of Aberdeen Village.
How long have you been a social worker, and how long have you worked at Aberdeen Village?
Since 1990, and I have been at Aberdeen Village for eight years.
Tell us about your role as a social worker at Aberdeen Village.
As social workers we do a little bit of everything — from Medicare paperwork and assessments to conducting family and neighborhood meetings to investigating concerns/complaints from residents and family members. I tell our residents and families to come to me if they have any questions they don’t know who to ask or concerns they have. If I don’t know the answer, I can either find out for them or let them know who they need to talk to.
What do you enjoy about your work at Aberdeen Village?
My favorite part of the day is spending time with the residents. I love visiting with them and learning about their pasts. If I’m having a stressful day, I will go to one of the neighborhoods to spend time with the residents. I also enjoy knowing that hopefully I am making a difference for them at this time of their lives and let them know that they are still valued.
What important service/role do social workers play in the lives of residents at Aberdeen Village?
One important role we have is to be a consistent face to the residents, especially our residents with dementia. It helps them to feel safe to see the same faces daily. It’s also helpful for the residents and families to know us so they are comfortable coming to us with any concerns they might have or if they just want to talk. I try to be as accessible as possible to not only residents but their families and staff.
What sort of things do you do that are hard for people to see — or that are behind the scenes — yet help make life better or easier for residents?
Our residents have had a lot of losses by the time they move into assisted living or health care. Many realize that this will be their last home. I try to do things that help to make their lives as normal and comfortable as possible. I develop personal relationships with the residents so they feel comfortable talking to me about those losses and any grief they may feel.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I have been married for 30 years. I have a son who owns a lawn management business and a daughter in grad school in Colorado. We have two dogs and one cat. I enjoy reading, spending time with my family and traveling to the beach as often as possible.
Anything others should know about life as a social worker in a senior living community?
Unfortunately, I think there is still a stigma with many people about working with older adults. I wish everyone knew how rewarding it is. If you just take the time to get to know them, older adults are fascinating and fun to be around.