All in a day's work

Danette Dooley
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Social worker Pam Hiscock is devoted to helping those 65 and over get the most out of their lives

Pam Hiscock has spent more than 25 years working with seniors through Eastern Health's Continuing Care Program. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

Pam Hiscock never knows what the day will bring when she heads to work each morning.
"Sometimes things happen suddenly and we're often called out on emergency calls where we do crisis intervention," she says of her job as a social worker with Eastern Health's Continuing Care Program.
"It could be a case of a caregiver who has ended up in hospital and the senior can no longer live alone."
Hiscock has been working with seniors for more than 25 years, helping those 65 and over access the services they need to remain in their own homes.
"We meet with the senior in their own environment and we talk with them and their family. They may be at a point in their life, due to aging and health issues, that they're finding things a little bit difficult," she explained.
The assessment is all about focusing on seniors' strengths while identifying areas of need, she says.
"We try to get a handle on where the gaps are, because the services we put in are not going to replace family, nor do we want to take over from the elderly person," she said.
Seniors represent the fastest-growing population group in the country.
However, because of the changes in family dynamics over the years with more adults leaving this province to find work elsewhere, many seniors don't have the supports people had decades ago.
That's why it's crucial that seniors receive help in the community, not only from social workers but from other professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, home-care workers and community service groups.
Social workers co-ordinate such care.
Hiscock said while she works to help seniors live as independently as possible, as they age living arrangements may need to change.
She's worked with some families for many years.
"There's one particular couple who used to live in their own home. The man had a stroke years ago, so his mobility was really poor. Both of them have diabetes and I've followed them over the years as their health has deteriorated," she said.
Hiscock and other professionals helped the couple move from their own home to a more suitable housing unit.
"They really couldn't manage in their house any longer, so we helped them find a subsidized apartment in a seniors' complex ...," she explained. "And on two occasions, the man has gone into a respite bed, which gave his wife an opportunity to visit for a week with the rest of her family."
Although the man is now bedridden, Hiscock says he maintains his independence.
"We've gotten this couple a mechanical lift to help get the gentleman out of bed and I'll go in regularly to assess the services they are getting."
While this couple has managed to continue living independently, that's not always the case, Hiscock says.
Moving from their own home to a nursing home or personal care home can be one of the most stressful times in the lives of seniors and their families.
"We work as a team to make the transition as smooth as possible," says Hiscock.
"Seniors are remarkable and they've certainly lived through so much more than we have. There's a lot of satisfaction with this job. … And you'll often end up with lots of hugs before you leave their house."
For more information on Eastern Health's Continuing Care Program, call 752-4835.

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