Whether you are one of our residents or a family member or friend of a loved one who has moved into Residences at Deer Creek Senior Living in Schererville or Residences at Coffee Creek in Chesterton, chances are you’ve had occasion to meet with our own Director of Social Services, Lindsey Sherron. That’s because Lindsey is dedicated to easing the transition when the choice is made to call somewhere new, home.
Lindsey is an integral part of our Leadership Team. She shares her time every week between both communities. She is available as an advocate and advisor, without additional fees, as a unique service to our residents and families. Lindsey is Masters- prepared as a clinical professional in Social Work. She has many years of experience as a counselor in Northwest Indiana, serving all ages, but with a special expertise and fondness for helping older adults and their families as they meet the ever-changing challenges of aging. Lindsey has taught us so much, and we are so grateful and honored that she has chosen to advance with us at Residences Senior Living.
What exactly is the role of a Social Services Director in an assisted living environment? If we shadowed Lindsey much as are her three interns who are preparing for their Masters degree in Social Work, we would observe that the role is a focus on the psychological and social needs of the elderly. Today she may be working with the resident who seems to be staying in her apartment most of the time, not even wanting to join others for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in our restaurant dining area. One of the aides is asking for help with the gentleman who insists his clothes are being lost or stolen every time she does his laundry. There’s a family in the office that is having fears about convincing their father that Memory Care will be the safest and best accommodation for their mother, even though she presently shares the apartment with him in Assisted Living.
Lindsey reminds us all, including families, that listening to find the root cause of any complaint or concern will unlock the flow of options to reconcile differences. She also helps us keep top of mind that one size does not fit all, that the individual approach is the best consideration, and that the same options that may suit one may not suit another. Social workers may provide counseling for residents about so many different issues. She is mentoring the interns with what she has experienced, that social work requires a life-long love of learning and a passion for the dignity and respect of all individuals, especially those in need of emotional reassurance. The job of a social worker is also to attempt to link residents and families to any needed resources. Yet another reason why we are pleased to be able to offer Lindsey’s expertise as part of our unique approach to senior living.
Our Social Workers Intern Program with Indiana University Northwest (IUN) and IUPUI (Indiana and Purdue)is currently underway, wherein two candidates for Masters degrees in Social Work are on-site at both communities to focus on acting as a resource and as advocates for elder care services. While each have social work positions in other organizations, working with Lindsey provides direct access and a concentration in working with older adults. They learn to use different communication skills to identify needs and consider resolution to concerns. In Assisted Living or Memory Care the needs resolution may involve counseling with families as well as individual residents and often includes staff. The Short Term program is for one semester/four months. The Long Term program extends into June 2023.
Lindsey feels it is extremely important to maintain this relationship with IUN and IUPUI. “We benefit from the extra help and service interns provide and it’s good for our residents to meet the enthusiasm of the candidates. The interns benefit greatly from the opportunity to meet our diverse residents whose needs are also varied,” she explains. “I also have a personal connection to the concept of providing students direct contact with the elder population while seeking advanced degrees. While enjoying an internship with older adults, the experience was so gratifying that I actually changed my focus and that shaped my entire career.” She believes an internship is a good place to figure out where you want to be, what is your “best fit” and exploring different settings. She encourages other social workers to experience working with different groups of individuals to see where they identify.
Meet Our Interns: Maggie, and Kasondra
Maggie Liston is working on her MSW through IUPUI’s Masters Direct Program and is making connections with residents at both Residences at Deer Creek and Coffee Creek. A 2005 graduate of Highland High School, she received a BA in Social Work in 2017. Maggie believes she benefited greatly from working at Starbucks where the emphasis on customer service is always emphasized. Since 2020 she has served as an Adult Case Manager for Severe and Persistent Mental Health and most recently with Life house, a transitional home with Porter Starke. Maggie is open to working with geriatric needs; she has volunteered through St. Margaret Hospital with skilled nursing as her introduction to their needs. She set her preference for interning with assisted living/Deer Creek. She also values family and resides in Hobart with her sister, two dogs and two cats. Maggie considers pet and even equine (horse) therapeutics to be beneficial as an option.
Kasondra Kerwin has spent her IUN program internship making connections at Residences at Coffee Creek. She also has a full-time position with Indiana Department of Child Services in Lake County. Kasondra is a graduate of Hanover Central and now resides with her husband and two dogs in Valparaiso. She notes that obtaining the Masters degree and participating in the intern program helps social workers to obtain new information that broadens the scope of the services they would be able to offer and may even result in a change of focus, similar to Lindsey’s story. She explains how she’s learned that the focus for older adults is on quality of life and dignity issues, translating into being able to make one’s own decisions as much as possible. Respect is largely accomplished by keeping it in the forefront while building relationship which is accepting and does not judge. “It’s very important for the older adults to make their own choices and let them guide their own goals,” she says. She says she is captivated by the fact that earlier life experiences seem to emerge later in life and how the counseling helps them process these memories later in the life cycle. “Their struggle is centered on the struggle for maintaining control and having their freedom. These can be obstructed by both physical and mental or cognitive barriers.”
Kasondra and Maggie laud this experience as “the best internship they’ve had” due to the encouragement they’ve received to think through concerns on their own as well as with Lindsey’s coaching and cueing. Sometimes, Lindsey leads the way forward with more difficult situations. The residents have formed obvious relationships with the interns and will genuinely miss the chatting and assistance of these dedicated social workers. We join our residents in wishing them the best—we already know how successful each is in this important service for the well-being of others in our communities!
Our interns and Lindsey agree that having a BA in Social Work is no longer adequate for pursuing the fast-growing needs in many sectors. They share that social workers are everywhere—in hospitals, skilled nursing settings, schools; police departments, the Veterans Administration, long term care, rehabilitation of all sorts, and even helping corporate America to meet codes of ethics and designing policies with a focus on more empathy for employees. Residences Senior Living works closely with social workers responsible for planning discharge of older adults from hospitals, medical or rehab services and we appreciate the dedication of each as being great resources for safe living and quality care.
In fact, the 2022 theme for the national observance of Social Work Month is “The Time Is Right for Social Work.” World Social Work Day is March 15 this year; the designation is every third Tuesday in March. It is a reminder to celebrate and recognize the hard work and diligence of social workers.
Indeed, while social work is a noble passion, it is definitely hard work. Mentoring interns who expect to stay in the profession is an opportunity to emphasize self-care, notes Lindsey, who explains that too many times a person could experience burn-out from helping others if they begin to neglect their own physical and mental health needs. She laughs as she also notes “I’m preaching to myself, as well!”
Social Work’s Beginnings in America Are About 100 years old
Social work claims as its “Father” Carl Rogers, an American psychologist (born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1902) who was among the founders of the humanistic approach in psychology. He developed a theory that there are three different components that create the self-concept: self-worth, self-image, and the ideal self. His contributions such as in the book Client-Centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory published in 1951 was renown as a guide, among many others, for counseling. Active Listening was published in 1957. By the 1970’s his focus was on Encounter Groups (1970), as well as A Way of Being (1980.) Rogers died in 1987.
Simply put, Rogers believed that therapists/counselors must have attributes to create an atmosphere wherein their clients can “move forward to become their true selves.” They must be genuine or “real” in their caring and accepting, and empathetic. He developed this direction in the 1940’s. The goals he set for person-centered therapy are so relevant. First is to create the necessary conditions- by the therapist or counselor– so that clients can feel free to self-explore their feelings, beliefs, behaviors and perspectives of their world. In this way counselors help clients in their growth process and enable them to cope with current problems, and eventually future problems. Build trust, refrain from judging, see the world from another’s perspective—the role of social workers as counselors.
Jane Addams could be considered the “Mother of Social Work” and was an American settlement activist, reformer, social worker, sociologist and leader/administrator. She was born in Cedarville, near Chicago, Illinois in 1860 and died in 1935. As a youngster with a spine damaged by tuberculosis, she learned empathy for others. She noticed the poor and their living conditions around her father’s flour mill and vowed to find ways to help them when she grew up. As a woman of means, she visited London and encountered Toynbee Hall, a place where people could get help and an education. When she returned to Chicago, she and a friend rented an old mansion—Hull House, in 1889, the first settlement in response to the needs of immigrants.
As she learned of people’s needs, she made additions to services. Among these were day care so immigrant mothers could work in factories, kindergarten and youth programs, places to sleep and bathe, a place to find food and clothing, a place to get help finding a job, and learning to speak English. She created the first playground for children. By 1907 she had spent her inheritance on 13 more buildings including a coffee house, kitchen, music school, art gallery, theater and gymnasium. Community centers came to be across the nation, they were so successful, and still are needed even today. In 1931 Jane was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Social work is a noble profession, one to celebrate and recognize every day of the year!
For more information about internships at Residences Senior Living, call (219) 864-0700.