Celebrating National Social Work Month

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

How can you do it? How can you work with a hospice? Aren’t you tired of people dying?

These questions are often posed to Wiregrass Hospice social workers Vicki Bennett and Betty Traylor. Despite the constant interrogation, they always answer positively.

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“We focus on living,” said Bennett. “It’s a ministry. It would be difficult to do if it wasn’t a ministry.”

Added Traylor, “We’re a helping profession. Helping people emotionally, financially…”

“Problem solvers,” Bennett concluded.

Bennett and Traylor will be honored along with other local social workers at a luncheon March 23 at Golden Ranch BBQ. The event is being held to celebrate National Social Work Month.

Being a hospice social worker requires a strong faith and an open heart. The job is not easy, but Bennett and Traylor find their work to be fulfilling. Routine days are seldom. Said Traylor, “There is no typical day around here.”

Bennett and Traylor handle several cases in Selma and throughout the Black Belt region. Before joining the Wiregrass Hospice family eight years ago, Traylor was involved in child welfare and hospital social work. Traylor said hospice social work is in a league of its own. She said working with ill patients and their families create an unyielding bond – a bond that is seldom broken after the passing of a loved one.

Bennett and Traylor visit patients and their families in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and private residences, offering a welcoming smile and unwavering support. Although Bennett and Traylor are preparing families for death, they still encourage hope.

Bennett, a four-year Wiregrass hospice employee and a former hospital social worker, is also a bereavement coordinator. She oversees monthly support group meetings in Selma and Marion so families “can come to some means of closure.” Bennett said she continues to follow families for 13 months after a patient’s death, paying them visits and sending them monthly newsletters and educational materials.

Bennett and Traylor both admit they do get attached, but families get attached to them too.

“They still see us for help,” Bennett said. “Families still rely on us after (a loved one) is gone.”

“We refer to it as the Wiregrass Hospice family because we do become an extension of the patient’s family.”

On March 25, the Wiregrass Hospice family will reunite for a 2 p.m. memorial service and candlelight vigil at Memorial United Methodist Church on Broad Street. The service will commemorate those lost in the last year, Bennett said. Families will have an opportunity to share some words about their deceased loved ones. Following the service, a balloon release will take place in the church’s front lawn.

For more information about Wiregrass Hospice call (334) 875-2120 or visit the Web site www.wiregrasshospice.org.