Social Workers Make a New Environment Feel Like Home

By Danielle Guillemette

Think of the last time you visited someplace you’d never been before. You don’t know the lay of the land, you haven’t met the locals, you don’t know the customs. It can be intimidating-unless you’ve got a reliable guide to show you the way.

That’s similar to the role a social worker plays for people first entering a skilled nursing community. Social workers are uniquely trained in building relationships to know and understand the people they serve. This allows us to ensure an environment that supports each resident’s individuality, comfort and dignity.

With March being National Social Worker Month, let’s take a look at how social workers help elders make a smooth transition to a new environment.

When your loved one first enters a skilled nursing community, the social worker is one of the first people who will welcome them. For the new resident and their family, it’s a whole new world with a lot of uncertainty. Like a trusted guide, the social worker is there to put them at ease. We’re there to answer basic questions about the daily routine and who’s who on the staff; equally important, we’re happy to help you make your space your own, from where to hang your family photos to how best to organize your clothes.

That type of personal attention is what social workers pride themselves on. We know that every resident comes with their own individual background, life experiences and personal preferences. By talking with our residents and their families, we can make sure those things are reflected in the new environment. If you enjoy reading the newspaper each morning or sleeping late, we’ll see to it that you can continue that. You don’t have to change to fit us; we’ll accommodate you and help you feel at home.

The social worker will be there throughout the settling-in process and will be a frequent visitor, checking in and making sure you’ve got everything you need. We’ll continue to be part of your care team which includes the nursing, dietary, therapeutic and life enrichment professionals who provide round-the-clock care and communicate regularly with you and your family.

The social worker is also your liaison to the in-house experts in areas such as finance, billing and Medicaid as well as our pastoral care team. We can also make arrangements with external resources (companion services, psychiatrists, neurologists, etc.) to be involved in a resident’s care plan should that be necessary.

At St. Ann’s, we focus on our residents’ quality of life as an acknowledged Eden Alternative community. That means our approach to care puts the needs and preferences of each resident first. It also means that social workers and our colleagues work to combat the destructive forces of loneliness, boredom and helplessness that detract from our elders’ health and well-being. That’s part of the person-centered approach that is the hallmark of our care.

As social workers, it is our honor to be a part of our elders’ lives and to make this stage of life meaningful and enjoyable.

Danielle Guillemette, BSW, is a social worker at St. Ann’s Care Center at Cherry Ridge. She can be reached at