Social Worker Sees Uptick in Seniors Battling Depression; Receives Award for Outreach Work
Olivia Fielder spends her workdays talking to seniors. Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the tone of the conversations.
“The depression has gone through the roof,” she said. “They’re so lonely and they’re getting so depressed.”
Fielder works on the Senior Health Services team at Emergent Holdings, a separate entity contracted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to perform administrative services for Blue Cross’ Medicare Advantage program. She’s a social worker on a Blue Cross® Coordinated Care team, which is led by a registered nurse and made up of other health professionals including dietitians and pharmacists. Coordinated Care teams provide outreach to vulnerable members, including seniors.
Through more than 20 years’ experience as a social worker, Fielder knows what to listen for to tell the difference between a senior experiencing a normal reaction to loneliness and one who has reached their breaking point.
Last fall, a caller needed help and Fielder served as a lifeline, ensuring they received medical attention before they could follow through with plans to die by suicide. For her quick thinking and lifesaving response, Fielder was recently named the first-ever recipient of Emergent Holdings’ “President’s Award”, which recognizes outstanding employees.
“I am just honored that I was put in a position to help,” she said when receiving the award.
For Fielder, helping is the job she signed on for. Over the course of a routine outreach call, she might talk to the men and women she serves about needs related to transportation, groceries, cooking, cleaning and medication. She then goes to work to either connect seniors with a different member of the care team – a pharmacist for example, in the case of discovering a senior isn’t taking all of their medication – or to find local community-based resources seniors might not be aware of. She compiles a list of service providers and their contact information and sends it through the mail. It’s then up to the seniors to act on Fielder’s recommendations but many express gratitude for making sense of what’s available.
No matter the reason for the initial call, Fielder’s ear is always tuned in for cues that a senior’s emotional needs are being met. Because of the pandemic, many have needed to limit visitors for safety reasons. As a result, help they needed likely wasn’t asked for or provided. By calling them and asking what they need, Fielder and the other members of her team empower seniors to ask for help.
Since joining Emergent Holdings in 2019, Fielder has listened to the stories of many seniors on the other end of her line. While her purpose is fixed on improving their health, she acknowledges the joy they bring to her life and the satisfaction she finds in helping them.
“I just want to talk to all of them every day,” she said. “They’re so much fun. They’re so interesting. I love this population; I love calling them and just the conversations. I can’t say enough about this job – I just think what we do is so amazing.”
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- Caring for Seniors During COVID-19
Main image photo credit: Getty Images