Taking Your Specialty Outside the Office: It’s a Win-Win

Social worker, nurse, attorney, caretaker, whatever our title may be, we are all devoted to the juggling act of enhancing our careers while still upholding a level of unprecedented care for our older-adult clients. But a concern and passion for seniors’ wellness and quality of life doesn’t have to end when your shift is up.

Help is Just Around the Corner:

Chicago is fortunate to have an overwhelming number of non-profit groups always looking for volunteers to assist with older adults after hours. Whether you are looking for a networking opportunity, community service, services for a client or family member, or to simply aid a vulnerable senior, there is an option for everyone.
Charities:
Debilitating diseases like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis are often affect our clients. All of these diseases have charitable organizations, with Chicago hubs, which have Junior Boards- perfect for young professionals looking to raise money and awareness for these important causes. As a member of the Multiple Sclerosis Society Junior Board myself, I have not only met great colleagues, but have had an opportunity to learn about new research and medicine, attend symposiums and black-tie galas, and bring my mother, an MS patient herself, to inspiring events around the city.
Villages:
The new trend in major cities is the senior village concept. This idea nurtures the senior who would like to live independently but would still like a link to resources within their neighborhood to remain engaged and well. Villages are always looking for volunteers to assist seniors with household tasks, provide transportation, or simply provide company to an older adult. Currently, there are Lincoln Park Village, North Shore Village and Skyline Village Chicago to choose from.
Social Groups:
There are also many groups that focus on providing companionship to seniors. Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly offers visitation services, food delivery, social outings and more to ensure older adults have the opportunity to re-connect with the world.
Senior Centers:
Organizations like The Center on Halsted, North Shore Senior Center and the Center for Jewish Elderly offer curriculum and activities to enhance seniors’ lives. Greg Simetz, Marketing Director for Right at Home In-Home Care & Assistance, volunteers a lot of his time at the North Shore Senior Center. In regard to his volunteer efforts, he writes:
“Let’s face it– we all can get into a rut with our fulltime jobs. Volunteering is a great way to reenergize your work life by taking the knowledge and expertise you’ve acquired and applying them in different areas where they can have an immediate, positive impact. Not only is this healthy for the community, it’s also healthy for your mind and body. On top of that, the new people you’ll meet and new skills you’ll develop can be a big help down the road as you move through your career. Everyone benefits.”
Greg also helps with fundraising and program development for a small non-profit serving seniors in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, Caring Connections for Seniors.
Pro-Bono:
Often in our profession, we see seniors in desperate need of assistance but lacking in funds to get the help they deserve. The Center for Disability and Elder Law and Chicago Volunteer Legal Services provide pro-bono legal assistance with guardianship or senior housing issues and are always looking for volunteers. Katie McClanahan, an attorney with the elder law firm Peck Bloom, LLC has collaborated with the Women’s Bar Association and Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL) to organize and run power of attorney workshops at senior housing facilities. McClanahan says,
“Working with CDEL gives me the opportunity to provide essential documents, powers of attorney for healthcare and property, to vulnerable seniors who need a helping hand. Often, these seniors have little to no family in the picture, and as a trustworthy professional I can draft these documents for them at no-cost, providing them with piece of mind that they do have an advocate on their behalf.”
Also, organizations like Catholic Charities and Age Options, utilize volunteer social workers, nurses, and support staff to provide pro-bono services including elder abuse investigations and caregiver support services. At the end of the day, there is always an opportunity to continue senior outreach simply by providing a little bit of your time and expertise. I am sure for every service I noted, there are ten more I missed. Can you think of any more places for Chicago Bridge members to volunteer? Or places that would be a great resource to our low-income clients?   Thank you to the editor, Bridget Murtha, and thanks rapportcenter for the photo.

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Kate Konieczny is the marketing coordinator for Peck Bloom, LLC, an elder law firm in Chicago. Through her position, Kate helps promote elder law services such as guardianship, Alzheimer’s disease planning, litigation related to wills and trusts and estate planning services.Kate graduated with honors from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in English and journalism. While a student at Eastern, Kate was an active writer and copy editor for the Daily Eastern News, managing editor of The Warbler yearbook, and a freelance writer for the Southtown Star and the Coles County Newspaper. After graduation, Kate spent a year abroad in Taipei, Taiwan teaching English. Kate is an active member of the Legal Marketing Association, “Muliple Solutions,” the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Illinois’ Junior Board, and an active volunteer with the Lincoln Park Village, a not-for-profit community of resources that helps people 50+ continue to live independently.

3 Comments

  • Elyse Baylis

    Thank you for the excellent article. I didn’t know about the senior village concept.

  • Melissa Buckles Haley

    Thank you for bringing to light ways that we can still help older adults in our free time!

  • Katharine Houpt

    Great article!

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