The Caring Force Blog January 2024 Workforce Hero: Laura Hembree

The Caring Force is pleased to announce that our January TCF Workforce Hero Spotlight honoree is Laura Hembree, an Options Counselor at Bristol Elder Services.

1. Tell us about your background. How did you decide to pursue a career in human services?

In 2008, I worked for a senior home care company, and I absolutely loved it. I worked both as a Caregiver and in the office. I loved working with the clients, and some became like family. I continued to help older family members and friends that needed help as well. I was very excited when I started working at Bristol Elder Services to be working with the senior population again. When I transitioned into the position of Options Counselor (OC), I knew it would be a challenge. But I enjoy working and connecting with the seniors in the community.

2. What does a typical day look like for you at your organization?

My first task of the day is to conduct the RUOK safety calls. Some days the calls take longer than others depending on how chatty they are; they wait for those calls every morning. I then review where I am on my OC cases and who needs follow-up calls or what information/resources I may need to continue to look for. I’m also the Certified Application Counselor (CAC) for the agency for Mass Health application assistance referrals that come in from the community. I check on those and see if there are any still needing attention. I also serve as back up to our Intake Department, so I monitor that system and offer to help if it looks like they’re busy.

3. What is your favorite professional memory?

In 2021, I had a consumer who had been living in an apartment building for 30 years. The building was sold, and the new owners were slowly evicting the tenants and remodeling the building. I assisted my consumer with filling out housing applications as well as getting SNAP. There was a new building going up that was also offering a handful of lottery apartments to low-income seniors that we also sent in an application for. After our session closed, her aunt informed me the following spring that my consumer was one of the lucky ones to be able to move into the new building. Her aunt informed me that due to my consumer’s hoarding over the past 30 years, it was determined that she would only be able to take some of her belongings to her new home, so she had to leave behind 85-90% of her things, including furniture. Her family bought her a number of new furniture items, but she still had a small handful of items that were needed. I worked with my supervisor at the time, and we were able to get those items through one of our special funds for an occasion such as this. My consumer and her aunt were both so grateful for the assistance.

4. This question is from our November TCF Workforce Hero Spotlight, Maria Rodriguez:  We all know this work can be very stressful, what are some self-care practices you do to prevent burnout?

When I feel like I’m getting frustrated or overwhelmed, I’ll get up from my desk and go get a cup of tea or more water. I’ll also take my headset off and lay it on the desk as a sort of physical action to give my brain a signal to rest for a few minutes. Although I think of some of my clients after work too — of what more I may have been able to do to help them — I try to leave work at work.

5. Do you have a question for the next person we spotlight?

What techniques do you use to handle a difficult case and in what ways have your techniques been successful when practicing them?

Thank you so much to Laura and all of our wonderful human services workers who bring joy and passion to work every day! We are so thankful for your efforts and for making the Commonwealth a better place.

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