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Just Ask Angie: An introduction to Coast social workers

Q: How can social workers on the Coast help seniors and adults?
Just Ask Angie file
Angie Theilmann is a information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre. She has a biweekly column with the Coast Reporter.

Q: How can social workers on the Coast help seniors and adults? 

A: Many clients we meet with at the Resource Centre are dealing with complex issues affecting their health, either physically or mentally. 

Vancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) community social workers are well-placed to help people looking for support. They are a tiny but impactful team of two here on the Coast: Cayce Laviolette is a social worker for VCH’s primary care team (he works alongside Coast doctors) and Chloe Delany is the social worker for older adults, working under VCH’s homecare department. (There are other social workers on other teams under the VCH umbrella on the Coast, but this article refers specifically to the community social work roles.) 

Laviolette explained that social workers can help with many things. “They are professionals who help people address barriers in their life that are getting in the way of their achieving social, emotional and physical wellness.” 

The type of help these social workers can provide can look different depending on the situation: 

“Support can include help with paperwork, compassionate listening and counseling, meeting with other members of the family, referring out to other resources that can help, as well as practical things like securing funding to help with a mixed bag of things, like helping a client find movers, or locating funding that will get a client to a medical appointment,” says Laviolette. 

People may be offered a referral to a community social worker via an interaction with the healthcare system, such as a visit to a family doctor, a visit from the homecare team or if a person is part of the palliative program. This referral would be offered if a healthcare practitioner picks up on an area of a person’s life that could use a little more support. 

Reasons for referrals can include things like precarious housing, family conflict or abuse. Or maybe a person is beginning cancer treatment involving trips to Vancouver and would benefit from support as they navigate their treatment. The variety of scenarios for people being referred to these community social workers is endless.  

And there are many ways that referrals happen outside of the healthcare system too. Referrals may come from family, friends, neighbours, from the police, or from organizations like ours.  

If a person consents to being connected with Chloe or Cayce, they’d arrange a convenient place to meet, or over the phone/virtually, and then they’ll make a plan with you to help you achieve your goals and improve your situation. People with active healthcare needs are prioritized. 

An important thing to know is that VCH social workers are designated responders – that is, they are mandated under the Adult Guardianship Act to investigate and respond to any reports of abuse and neglect and self-neglect of vulnerable adults. In practice, if anyone mentions to any of the VCH community social workers that there is an older person who they think is being taken advantage of financially by someone, they would be mandated to look into it. Any concerns can be directed to the VCH homecare office (604-741-0726) or reported to a physician.  

Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Note: on some days, we can book clients after 2 p.m. Contact us: [email protected] or 604-885-4088.