When you need help with financial assistance or community resources, a Social Worker or Social Service Representative can be your best advocate.
Human Services or Social Service Departments are provided by your local towns. Each town may run a little differently but in general, the Social Service’s staff can help individuals apply for financial entitlement programs such as the Elderly/Disabled Renter’s Rebate Program, Elderly/Disabled Property Tax Relief Program, Energy Assistance, Medicaid programs and Medicare Counseling. They can also assist with referring the names of trusted homecare agencies if personal care, homemaking or companion services are needed as well as helping with other community resources.
Jennifer Gillis has been the Senior Outreach Coordinator of Social Services for the Town of Trumbull, Connecticut for 16 years. In an interview with her, I learned some of the other aspects of her job and witnessed her passion for helping those in need. Although some people present themselves well on the outside, Jenn sees the underlining picture of their financial hardships.
In Connecticut there are 305,000 low income households. Most seniors live on a fixed income. The working poor may not qualify for financial assistance. Income can sometimes barely pay for the necessities of life such as food, energy bills, housing and medication. In the field of Social Services we want to fix the world but sometimes we can’t and for Jenn personally, that can be very frustrating.
Many Social Service Departments work closely with the Department on Aging, Elderly Protective Services and Emergency Services. The goal of the local towns is to have a smooth path of continuity. Jennifer values building relationships so when Emergency Personnel witness a situation that does not fall under their catchment area such as a hoarding case, a referral will be made to Social Services.
During my interview Jenn’s phone rang multiple times testifying to the great need of the community. I expressed my concern for the elderly who may not know about the resources to assist them. Seniors living alone without family, dementia, language barriers, not being savvy on the computer or even owning one are some of the obstacles they face. Navigating through the system can be a very overwhelming experience and for some, not possible at all. Jenn explained that some people need just 15 minutes to help answer a question on a form while others need more hand holding so they are given some sort of security. Empathy is a quality that is prevalent in the field of Social Services. “I’m truly here to make things better”, Jenn states. When Jenn reflects on her day, she finds satisfaction knowing she helped alleviate a bit of stress from a senior’s life.
Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Gerontology from Quinnipiac University which compliments her work in Social Services. When people have asked Jenn why she chose her particular field of study, she replied, “Why would I not? Now after working in the field of Elderly Services for over 25 years Jenn says, “I love what I do every single day.”
Article written by Diane Fekete, Director Community Relations for Connecticut In-Home Assistance