Welcome readers! My name is Jacqueline Ulissey, and I am a licensed master social worker for Silver Lining Home Care Solutions. In this article you will learn about why I became a social worker, what services I provide, and why I am grateful to be part of the Silver Lining Family.
Why Social Work?
I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of older adults before I knew I wanted to become a social worker. It all started almost 13 years ago when I was 16 years old. The high school I attended required students to obtain volunteer hours. I assisted with activities at a local Independent/Assisted Living Facility in Dallas. I also became a social companion for a lady residing in Independent Living.
My time spent volunteering and speaking with the residents was one of the few times I felt happy and like my life had some meaning during those tumultuous years. Without going into too much detail, I will say I felt 100 times more comfortable around older people than I did around fellow classmates. Instead of being teased, excluded, and a disappointment, I was welcomed, and residents liked me. I provided joy and comfort to them, and they provide me with happiness and a purpose.
I had a similar experience in junior college when I volunteered for Hospice. I still recall the gentleman I helped care for during those months. He was a World War II Air Force Veteran and played a role in the Nuclear Weapons Program. For a class project, I interviewed him about the years he was involved with the program. Just before his passing he left me his unpublished manuscript printed in 1978. I tell you this to show how impactful it is being a companion to older people.
As I was in my last year of junior college about to graduate with an Associate of Liberal Sciences, I thought more about what I wanted to do with my life moving forward. I brainstormed ways I could make a living helping older adults. Eventually I narrowed it down to becoming either a psychologist or social worker. I gravitated toward social work due to the wide array of services offered compared to what a psychologist can provide. Also, to land a good job as a psychologist you need to have a doctorate degree. There was no way I would dedicate six to eight years of my life getting a PhD after receiving an undergraduate degree!
In 2017, I moved to Denton and was accepted into the social work cohort at Texas Woman’s University. It was a good transition from living at home with my parents in Dallas. TWU felt safe and offered me a place to grow and continue learning. I graduated magna cum laude in 2019. In 2020, I continued with higher education from The University of Texas at Arlington. I attended their online social work program for aging. After graduation, I passed the official licensing test to become a master social worker in Texas.
What Even is Social Work?
By now you might be wondering what social workers do, why they matter, and if you would ever need their support. Social workers have many roles and work with a variety of people in different populations. You will find social workers in hospitals, schools, non-profits, mental health facilities, long-term care, home care, and more! Social workers can support individuals of all ages. They can also work with families and in group environments. They are a point of contact for people struggling to cope, who are in crisis, and who need help accessing resources. Social workers are usually either clinical or non-clinical. Non-clinical social workers (that’s me) help contact people to community resources and provide education about different topics like mental health and positive coping skills.
They can also provide short-term counseling, psychoeducation, and facilitate support groups. These types of social workers must be employed by an agency. Clinical social workers undergo extra training to provide long-term therapeutic treatment and have the credentials to diagnose clients with mental health disorders. They are also allowed to open a private practice.
My role as a Home Care Social Worker is to provide support, information, resources, and counseling to older people that will allow them to life a rich and meaningful life in the comfort of their home. Perhaps their health is declining, and they need help finding a doctor. Maybe they had a recent fall and need to modify their home on a budget to accommodate their physical abilities. Maybe they need help with tasks of daily living like cleaning, cooking, transportation, dressing, and bathing. As a social worker I can help connect them to resources. I can do the preliminary research to alleviate some of their stress. If an older person had a recent loss or change in their life, they can talk to me about that, and I can support them as their counselor. I can also support the care partners of older adults.
Care partners play an important role and should not be overlooked. Maybe, the care partner is dealing with their own grief, feeling isolated from the community, and feeling guilty that they are struggling to care for their loved one. In addition to current care partners, those who recently lost their spouse, parent, sibling, or friend may benefit from having me as their social worker. Depending on each person’s situation, I can help by listening to them, providing education about certain topics, and helping them find solutions while motivating them to actively improve their life. I focus on client’s strengths and successes and strive to empower them. If a client needs more extensive counseling for a longer period, I can refer them to clinical social workers or psychologists. Additionally, I can notarize official documents such as living wills, advanced directives, and estate plans.
Why Silver Lining Home Care Solutions?
My involvement with Silver Lining was unexpected. I did not set out with a plan to become their social worker. After several months completing job applications and going to a few interviews I felt distraught, and my confidence was waning. If only I could create my own social work job that aligned with my passions and values. I don’t have the license that would allow me to be self-employed as a social worker nor do I want to choose that pathway. I needed support of an agency who believed in my vision and shared my interests. I wondered if this big idea would ever meet the light of day.
In the meantime, I needed a little extra income and wanted to continue working with older people. It was May of 2022, and I was working part-time as an activity assistant while looking for a job in social work. The social worker at my activities job referred me to Silver Lining. I could help older adults by providing companionship and homemaking services. I interviewed with Ashley, the president of Silver Lining, and was offered the job. During that interview I found out she had been wanting to expand services to include social work but needed a social worker. We discussed my social work experience, credentials, and goals. I wanted to provide social services to older adults and family care partners in an environment that offered employees autonomy, flexible hours, compassion and understanding.
After speaking with Ashley, I was confident Silver Lining would be a great fit for my career interests and goals. She gave me the opportunity to compose a job proposal and guideline explaining how we would create this new addition to Silver Lining. Both were approved and we have been continuing with development of this program for the past few months. It is a wonderful experience so far. I have been able to learn more about working for a small business and have taken on a variety of roles, including social worker, marketer, social media manager, and writer. In addition to working with Ashley, I have met other fantastic people in the Denton Community who also provide services to older adults. We all work together to better serve the seniors who live here. I feel I am in my element and am incredibly happy to be a part of the Silver Lining family.