sunshine & celebration:
A NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS STORY
A cake? No, Gertrude wanted donuts to celebrate her 101st birthday. So, that’s what MSW student Molly McRae brought along: donuts, candles, and a bouquet of birthday balloons.
Molly met Gertrude in August of 2017, when Molly began her second-year practicum placement with Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN). Gertrude only signed up with NHN a few months earlier.
The College of Social Work’s NHN program fills the gaps between public and private services for older adults, while providing supervised field training for social work students. The program is meant to help older adults remain independent and provide a network of support for them and their caregivers, while providing opportunities for students to learn critical social work skills.
NHN Director Regina Campbell has noticed significant changes in Gertrude since she became involved with the program. “The first time I visited Gertrude, she was very sad, isolated, and reported being lonely,” said Regina, who joined Molly in April for her last practicum visit with Gertrude. “As we saw her today, I noticed that Gertrude’s sadness had been lifted, she was smiling, she was interacting with us, she was willing to talk about her life and share those really important experiences that she’s had.”
Gertrude’s primary caregiver, her daughter Dolly, has noticed plenty of changes as well. “When she first started getting sick, it was scary for me to be alone,” said Dolly. “[Aging] is a normal thing, but it was still scary for me. This is how it should be. Your mom should go out when she’s in her hundreds.” Dolly explained that having Neighbors Helping Neighbors come in has made a huge difference in her feeling supported as a caregiver. “[Molly’s a] little piece of sunshine coming in every week,” said Dolly.
The program is valuable experience for the students as well. “Our students are learning so much,” said Regina. “They are learning clinical skills in a hands-on way that will be invaluable in their professional lives. They move forward already prepared to conduct assessments, to write clinical notes, and advocate for their clients.”
“I have learned so much about how to be an effective social worker and meet the needs of clients,” said Molly. “Neighbors Helping Neighbors has been essential to my educational experience.”