By: William Brady
Jaclyn Story is a 25-year-old social worker from Rogers Park. She is a Loyola University Chicago alumni with a masters in social work and has been working with mentally handicapped clients in Northern Chicago and Evanston since February, 2020.
Story began as a social worker this February, working primarily in the field, often going directly to her client’s homes. Basic day-to-day activities can be challenging for her clients.
Her clientele are already a high risk population for COVID-19. The pandemic changed the scope of her job and presented many new challenges in order to continue to support her clients and keep them safe from the virus. We discussed how her job has changed, and what she sees moving forward.
Brady: What is the procedure for when you have to go visit a client during COVID?
Story: In the beginning we saw them as little as possible. We probably saw them maybe once a week, and so we did as many phone calls as we could. But the problem is a lot of them lose phones or don’t know how to work phones or don’t answer their phones for whatever reason. So when I would have to see them I would wear a mask at all times and I would encourage them to wear a mask. It’s really hard for a lot of them to wear masks, you have to keep reminding them every thirty seconds to put their mask on, for a lot of them.
I’m also on this crisis hotline where I have to be ready 24/7 about once every six weeks, and it’s for a week straight. One thing that’s really important, I realized, is boundaries. It’s being able to answer the phone, but being able to say this is not a crisis. I mean, I got a call this morning wanting a client to come to his house to help him with his karaoke machine, and I said, “No, I’m not going to do that.” Now, did I have time today to go to his house, yeah, probably. But I didn’t because that’s not an emergency.
Brady: Yeah that’s not a crisis.
Story: Exactly. That’s teaching them what’s an emergency, what’s not an emergency, and setting those boundaries is so important for my self care and my well being and not getting burnt out.
Brady: Earlier this summer, we had rioting break out. Did you have any calls related to that?
Story: So there weren’t a lot of clients like freaking out about it. It was more of us educating them and telling them, “Hey you should stay inside.” A lot of them don’t have TVs, don’t have access to the news and are just kind of oblivious to a lot of things. I mean, some of them were aware for sure, but there are some where we just had to educate them. You know the things that you just hear and that you just think of as common knowledge that everyone knows is not common knowledge for my clients, and so I have to be able to say, “Hey there’s looting and rioting going on and it’s really important that you stay in your house tonight.”
Brady: Do you learn as time goes on which clients react a certain way to something?
Story: Absolutely. Some of them have different cognitive functioning as well, and so some people I know how much I have to explain about this. Just coaching people on little things like “Okay put your groceries in the fridge.” I know what clients I have to tell them to put their groceries in the fridge. And then I know other clients that don’t need to be told to put their groceries in the fridge they’ll get it. And that’s a big learning curve as well, is being able to figure out which clients need those explicit instructions, and which clients I can do more of that therapeutic work and then I can ask those questions like, “How are you feeling about it?” and, “How is it affecting you emotionally?” So those can be really good conversations. I can’t have those conversations with someone who doesn’t know what is going on. There are different responses and it’s kind of learning who I can have those conversations with and I can ask those hard questions too.
*Transcript has been edited for length