Introduction & Insight from a Social Work Student

Hello and thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I am a Social Work student beginning my placement at Family Council’s Ontario. I am excited to begin this journey into a new placement and explore the world of long-term care and what that means in a social work context.

Before beginning this field placement, I got to put my current knowledge of the aging population into action when I hosted my grandmother for two weeks this summer. It had been two years since I’ve really got to spend time with her. The pandemic is no doubt, the reason for such a long stretch of time. Since it began, big changes happened in life including a couple strokes and going from independent living to long-term care.

Even before she arrived, there was anxiety about how she would be. My family was warned that she would need supervision outside the house and that she couldn’t garden like she used to (an activity she loves). I kept all the worry in mind when she arrived but I also gave her some space. I observed her and wanted to know if my family’s anxieties were justified or not.

Well, when she arrived, it didn’t take long for her to fall into an old routine of pulling weeds, mowing the lawn (I started it for her and kept an eye on her!) and organizing the kitchen. I was not only stunned but I was relieved. I saw the woman I knew two years ago with a new found resiliency that I admire to this day.

I learned two things the couple weeks she spent time with us. One, grandma has more energy than I dos a 26-year-old woman and two, never underestimate the power of family.

I could have let the anxieties of other people dictate my behaviour in front of my grandmother. I could have pushed her inside, did tasks for her or told her to sit down. It wouldn’t have been fair. Instead, I observed a woman who with the power of seeing her family and going back to an old routine she loved and missed, regain some independence she had lost after her strokes.

Being able to see family, interact on a personal level and not through a computer screen has a long-lasting effect on a person’s health and life living in long-term care. Even though I come into the lives of people in long-term care as a social work student, I know I will never have as deep as an impact as I would if I were family.

I see the importance of the closeness, the bonds and the stories shared. To Family Councils all across Ontario, your continued dedication to your family members is inspiring and incredibly important. You are their voice and support. COVID-19 has been incredibly stressful, terrifying and heart-breaking for many. As vaccines roll out and the province goes back to some sort of normalcy, all I can really hope for is the connection between family and long-term care residents becomes even stronger.

What I learned this summer will stay with me forever. With this knowledge in mind, I can now reflect on how family’s impact the lives of their loved ones in long-term care. I can appreciate the anxieties and the hopes they have. Listen to your loved ones, observe them and you’ll surprise yourself.

Author: E.R. (FCO Placement Student)