Yvette Pleimling has only been with Embrace Living Communities for a few months, but she has already been made to feel like part of the family. Read the Q & A below to learn more about her and her hopes for the Greencastle of Elmhurst community where she serves as a Social Service Coordinator.
How did you come to be a part of the Embrace Living Communities family?
I actually know two Social Service Coordinators who I used to work with. They love working here and have had nothing but positive things to say about their experience. So when a position opened, they alerted me to it. I applied and here I am!
You’ve been here nearly three months now. How have you been settling in?
So far so good. I am definitely working on building rapport with the residents. In the very beginning, everyone made a point to stop by and get to know me, and I was very interested in building those relationships. Now, people are familiar with my face and know my name. They’ve been wonderful and very accepting.
My fellow staff members have also been amazing. They’ll stop in just to say “hi” or “good morning,” making the effort to get to know me a little better. When I first started, they arranged a meet and greet, which was a really nice way for some of the seniors and I to meet. Now, some of the seniors will invite me to “coffee clutch” in the morning, so I’ll have coffee with them. It’s been nice being made to feel like part of the group.
What’s a typical day like for you as a Social Service Coordinator?
Most days, the mornings are definitely the busiest, but it varies. A resident may come down with a problem, need resources, or want assistance with something. Aside from that, a big part of my day is trying to reinforce those connections with outside organizations and looking for new ones to come in and do some of the wellness and educational programs.
I’ve partnered with the nursing class at the College of DuPage, where nursing students and their professor will come in and do free blood pressure screenings for our residents and things of that nature. I’m also hoping to bring in therapy pets and children from local schools to see if they can spend time with residents.
Have you worked with seniors before?
Yes, my entire career has actually been with seniors. When I was in school, my initial interest was in working with children. It just so happened that I ended up working in a nursing home and that kind of kicked off my career of working with seniors. For 11 years, I worked as a senior case manager, where I visited seniors in the community and did an assessment to determine what additional services or support they needed.
What inspires you to work with them?
They’re so full of knowledge and life, but, unfortunately, I think they are our “forgotten” generation. They’ve been independent for so long that people sometimes forget to extend that support once they age. Many seniors are still very independent, but as you get older you lose that community that is sort of built in for you. Seniors may not be able to drive anymore or they may have outlived some of their friends. For whatever reason, it may not be as easy to go out into the community and make new friends as they once had before. So it’s really important to me to make sure that they maintain their independence and those social connections in one way or another.
Having worked with seniors extensively, what do you think people tend to get wrong about seniors?
There are many things, but it’s either the assumption that an older person doesn’t want to be bothered or that an older person who has been living on their own for some time is fine and doesn’t need any help. I think there are these preconceived notions that seniors are set in their ways and don’t need us, whether it’s for assistance with daily living or the social component. But seniors still need to thrive. They’re not beyond learning and wanting to experience new things and new friendships.
What are some of the ways that you and other staff at Greencastle of Elmhurst try to encourage that socialization?
I’m learning that a lot of the residents sort of have their set activities, so I’m encouraging others to join in, as well. Right now I’m really focusing on establishing myself as a familiar face, making myself as available as I can for someone to come to me with questions, concerns or maybe just someone who needs me to accompany them to the community gathering and introduce them. Just being encouraging and available for support.
How does the Greencastle of Elmhurst community interact with the larger community of Elmhurst, IL? What are some of those valuable partnerships?
One I’ve noticed the residents really enjoy is the visits from the College of DuPage’s psychology class. Once every three months, they have an intergenerational meeting with our residents. It’s a nice way to get individuals who are thinking of working with seniors to come into residents’ homes and get to know and understand them. It also gives our residents a way to communicate and engage with the community. Like I said, a lot of times seniors are very independent, but transportation is a big barrier, so something like this where “the community” can be brought to them is really nice. It’s about feeling like they’re part of a community – like they’re part of something bigger.
What’s the value of these partnerships for residents?
There’s a risk of isolation with seniors. Luckily, here residents have neighbors and other seniors they can get together with, but it’s really about trying to avoid that isolation, which can lead to depression and other ailments. We want to eliminate the idea that, just because someone’s 70, 80, 90 years old that that’s it for them. They can continue to nourish their existing relationships and build new ones. I just think that is really, really important for mental health and emotional well-being. Everybody craves that social connection, and seniors are no different.
What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your new role?
Just continuing to build those relationships, especially with the seniors who perhaps aren’t as involved with the community programs. I’m hoping to put my own stamp on things, of course without disrupting what’s already been established here.
In my previous role as a case manager, I got to interact with seniors, but here I get to know seniors on a much more personal level on an ongoing basis. One of my favorite parts of being in this role is that relationship I get to develop with them.
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