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Rebecca Jiggens
Intro to Social Work/HON 3000
Prof. Shantalea Johns
12 December 2016
Service-Learning Project: Older Adults
The elderly population is growing at an exponential rate as the baby boomer generation
continues to age. With this change in our nation, comes a greater responsibility to address the
unique needs of older adults with reformed access to a wide array of resources and reformed
operations of long-established systems. In order to gain a better understanding of the realm of
social work, specifically focused on the older adult population, myself and two classmates,
DeAngelo King and Bernard McBride, partook in a service learning project involving hands-on
experience in the field. Personally, I volunteered my time and resources within the Greater
Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimers Association, alongside DeAngelo, as well as within Henry
Ford Hospice. Due to scheduling conflicts, Bernard chose to complete his service learning
experience within Cameron Court Senior Village on Thanksgiving Day.
Prior to beginning our field work for our project, my group set three attainable objectives
to help facilitate our project and learning, as well as to evaluate the outcomes of our experiences.
Our objectives include: to gain insight into the field of social work, specifically centered around
older adults; to promote social welfare for the aging population and their caregivers; and to make
a positive impact on the lives of older adults and their loved ones within the Metro-Detroit
community. We successfully met each of these objectives, superseding the knowledge and
experience we anticipated to gain through our involvement with each aforementioned
organization.

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The Alzheimers Association is a nonprofit organization whose vision is to see A world
without Alzheimers disease. The Association provides care and support to persons with
Alzheimers and dementia and their families, helps to advance research efforts, and serves as an
advocate for people affected by Alzheimers and other forms of dementia. I spent my time
volunteering within the Greater Michigan Chapterspecifically the Robert and RoseAnn
Comstock Day Program. This chapter is the only chapter in the nation to have respite day
programsSouthfield and Detroit, Michiganfor persons with dementia and their caregivers. In
order to be eligible for day program services, participants must have a clinical diagnoses of
Alzheimers or some other form of dementia. The participant must be able to self-ambulate,
independently or with a cane or walker, or must be a one-person assist to transfer from a
wheelchair. Staff at the Association are prohibited from providing any sort of medical care,
including medicine administration of any sort. However, staff can assist participants with
toileting needs, as necessary, yet participants are not typically at a stage of complete
incontinence. The cost of the program is seven dollars per hour and includes a hot lunch provided
by a Meals on Wheels program from a local church. Medicare does not cover the expenses of the
program; however, the cost can be adjusted based on a familys income and some families may
be eligible for financial grants.
My role during my time at the Association was to observe the day-to-day operations of
the day program and to participate in activities with the older adults. I initiated and participated
in activities that helped with hand-eye coordination, memory enhancement, creativity, and
socialization skills, such as ladder ball, crafting, sorting exercises, bingo, and more. During
lunchtime, DeAngelo and I assisted with plating and serving meals, assisting participants who
need to be fed, and cleaning up from the meal. Our biggest role within the Association was to

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simply be an extra set of helping hands when needed, and to serve as a friendly face for
participants to engage with.
My time at the Alzheimers Association was overseen by Sheryl Darroch, LLMSW, who
serves as the Respite Services Manager for the Greater Michigan Chapter. During one of my
visits, I conducted a brief interview with Ms. Darroch to discuss her role as a social worker and
to get her evaluation of the successes and shortcomings of the day programs. Ms. Darroch stated
that a few of the biggest challenges that the day program face are employee retention and
fundingboth of which are essential to the operations of the program. She also noted how case
management, specifically addressing the unique needs of each participant and then trying to
create a group atmosphere, is also challenging. However, aside from the challenges, Ms. Darroch
and I share a similar perception of what makes the challenging aspects of the organization and
day programs worthwhile. By all staff and volunteers, there is a resounding agreement that it is
so rewarding to witness participants stepping out their comfort zones, socializing well with
others, and enjoying themselves. Also, providing respite for caregivers so that participants loved
ones can have a break and stay well themselves is a significant benefit of the program, and is
rightfully recognized as so by staff members.
Along with volunteering my time at the Alzheimers Association, I completed a few of
my service hours with Henry Ford Hospice. Henry Ford Hospice is an organization branched
from the Henry Ford Health System which involves an interdisciplinary team that provides
terminally ill people and their families services related to palliative care, education, caretaking,
bereavement, etc. I spent my time assisting with a holiday memorial service held for families that
had suffered the loss of a loved one within the past year. I was responsible for checking guests in,
handing out service programs, and assisting guests to their seats. Following the memorial

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service, was a reception where families could meet other hospice families and talk about their
late loved ones and their bereavement processes. I was responsible for facilitating conversations,
as well as simply serving as a listening ear for those who wished to share their personal stories.
Hospice work is rewarding because of the care and comfort you are able to provide patients and
families with during difficult times; yet, just as any field of social work, there are present
challenges. Similar to the Alzheimers Association, case management proves to be a task that
requires much diligence and organization in order to allow the organization to operate at its
fullest potential. However, with hospice care, the greatest challenge tends to be the emotional
and physical toll that the work can have on staff members, faculty, and volunteers.
Through our service-learning experiences, my group members and I were exposed to the
three levels of social workmacro, micro, and mezzoin unique combinations. The work
completed by our supervisor and social worker, Sheryl Darroch, at the Alzheimers Association
fits into to the macro-level. Ms. Darrochs role is primarily administrative. Through her work, we
were able to see how case management is done. Each participant has a different diagnoses of
Alzheimers or dementia, which makes a case-by-case admission into the day program
imperative. Since each participant is unique in their abilities and interests, we also learned
important micro-level techniques for group workskills that many social workers utilize often. I
have gained a greater respect for social workers as it is evident that social workers are
responsible for a multitude of tasks, many of which involve a comprehensive understanding of
all departments and responsibilities of the organization as a whole to ensure equitable and quality
services.
Overall, I enjoyed the service learning component of this project, and am very grateful
for my experiences with the Alzheimers Association and Henry Ford Hospice. I enjoyed the

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ability to have a hands-on role in my academic learning and in my community. It was
challenging for my group members and I to secure a location and time that worked for all of our
needs and schedules. However, our decision to work with different organizations allowed our
group to have a unique perspective on our topic. For future students, soon to be completing this
same project, I would offer a few key pieces of advice: start securing your service-learning
organization as early as possible in the course. Most places that involve working directly with
people have lengthy application processes and require comprehensive background checks.
Choose a topic you are passionate aboutit will make the work seem less like work. If you are
more a leader, delegate responsibilities within the group project. Taking on the entire project
yourself is too much work and is not the way the project is intended to be. If you are more a
follower, initiate conversation with group members early on and ask what you can do to
contribute. Teamwork is a key factor in making a group project productive, effective, and
efficient.
I truly believe that a well-rounded education encapsulates the mere purposes of this
service-learning projectincorporating service learning with academic coursework to enhance
learning. Partaking in this service-learning project has provided me with invaluable opportunities
to have a direct, positive impact on the lives of those who live in my community. Through each
organization, I gained networking opportunities which will prove to be very useful should I
decide to pursue a career in social work. My experiences, in and outside of the classroom, helped
me to develop and expand my leadership, teamwork, organizational, and social skills. As I
continue to further my education at Wayne State University, I grow more and more excited to
pursue a worthwhile career working with older adults.