Congratulations to Brandman Centers for Senior Care (pictured above) for receiving 2021 NASW-CA’s Organization of the Year Award! The awards ceremony was held during NASW-CA’s virtual conference in October.
Brandman Centers for Senior Care is a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE. It’s a type of healthcare organization designed specifically for people age 55 and older with complex medical needs that often result in them falling through the cracks of other healthcare systems. As part of their multidisciplinary team, they have a social work team that currently includes Susan Oritz, MSW; Vanessa Ramirez MSW; Soon Shin Kim, MSW; Emily Frank, LCSW; and department manager Carolyn Quinn, LCSW.
COVID-19 hit our population hard this year. Brandman Centers for Senior Care pivoted quickly from mostly in-person services to mostly telehealth, while also minimizing the effects of isolation for our participants by assessing frequently for mental health needs, providing activities to do in the home, and in some cases linking friends from the Center with each other so they could keep in touch virtually. All of these efforts combined to help some of the most vulnerable members of the San Fernando Valley community make it through the pandemic. And when the Center lost a number of their participants due to COVID, they supported each other in their grief, and redoubled their commitment to serve this vulnerable population.
The social workers’ impact wasn’t just with the participants. As the death toll (and the fear) mounted among our participants, staff at the Brandman Center needed to rely on each other for their own emotional support. The social workers organized a meditation and group discussion for the staff, during which they took time out of their whirlwind days to take in the present and share with each other the stresses and sense of purpose that they felt working together through such difficult circumstances. Months later, the Center organized a series of small-group events in collaboration with their Activities Department, during which staff created an art together and, took time to do a mindfulness exercise and open dialogue about the strange and heartbreaking experience of being an essential health care worker during COVID. The social workers led the staff in these opportunities to hold space, comfort, and encourage each other.
Though the social work team is but one component of the Brandman Centers for Senior Care, their presence is woven through ever aspect of their work. They have influenced their non-social work colleagues to look more closely at the entirety of each person we serve, and the way so many social, institutional, and individual factors intersect in each person’s life. At every juncture, the social work perspective is right there, challenging us to be more curious, more connected, and more advocating of the participants we are so lucky to serve.