A national observance this month offers an opportunity to shine a light on some of those who take their time to be advocates for others.

March is Social Work Month. Many social workers assist the elderly, helping them to remain in their homes for as long as possible by connecting them with a variety of services. These can range from Meals on Wheels to simple transportation. Social workers also conduct home visits to provide counseling and other services for patients. In this way, they help to give people support and resources to help them maintain their independence.

Freudenthal Home Health social workers Shelbe King, who also is the vice president of in-home services, and Stefanie Nold say that their work is important to them, and they love how each day holds new opportunities.

“It’s not your typical 8-to-4:30 job,” Nold says. “You’re definitely not chained to a desk. You’re able to interact with people.”

However, King wants people to understand that social workers, despite what people might hear in the media, are there to help.

“There’s a lot of different things that are on TV that really show social workers in a bad way,” King says. “And I think because of that, people have a misconception about what social workers do, because it’s portrayed as we are the bad person, we’re the ones that take you out of the home, we’re the ones who take your money away. And it’s so far from the truth. We’re actually the ones that try to keep you at home, preserve the families and try to mediate and advocate on their behalf.”

Nold echoes this sentiment, saying that social workers are there to support those who need them.

“You’re working to try to get the support, get some more help in the house, get the families aware of some of things to watch for with their elderly parents or grandparents,” Nold says. “You kind of help communication in a way too.”

But social workers don’t just work with the elderly. Some work with new babies, middle-aged parents and even foster children. Nold recalls a letter written by a foster child to his social worker once the child had grown up, thanking the worker for always being supportive.

“Even as a young child’s life is changing through one home to another or to different schools, you might have the constant of the social worker who has really impacted (that person),” Nold says.

Social workers utilize a number of different resources to provide for their patients, staying in close contact with family members and care managers and providers to better serve their clients.

“You’re in constant interaction with some of the other agencies, because we work together to make sure that the person is safe, make sure that the person stays independent and make sure that they have everything they need,” King says.

Social workers also respond to any goals that they might have when it comes to staying independent.

“Folks identify their goals and we work with them to meet those goals. And the goal is usually, ‘Stay home,’” Nold says.

So, in order to better identify areas of need, King says that she asks clients several questions upon meeting them for the first time. For example, she tries to understand what support systems are available to the client, how they eat and get groceries and possibly even the state of their finances. And depending on those answers, she knows what route to take, King says.

King will be hosting a free class called “Being effective with your directive” at noon Tuesday, March 13, at the Lambright Senior Center in Savannah, Missouri.

“I kind of call it spring cleaning with your paperwork, because there’s a lot of things that people don’t understand are very important until it’s a crisis situation,” King says. “So we want to steer away from those crisis situations. Do you have your advanced directive? Do you have a ‘Do not resuscitate’ if that’s something that you believe in? Do you have a power of attorney?”

She explains that someone may be in a state where they can’t make decisions for themselves anymore, which is why it’s important to have all of the necessary paperwork done in advance.

And that’s another thing a social worker can help to organize for clients. Whether they’re brokering, mediating, counseling or getting resources, social workers cast a wide net to help foster well-being and independence.

“We’re not coming there to take you out of your home,” King says. “We’re there to help you.”

Daniel Cobb can be reached at daniel.cobb@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowCobb.