Learning to listen

Joy Wiggins - SSD-2When Joy Wiggins first came to work at Manor of the Plains in activities, her grandmother was a resident. Of course, Joy wanted her to get involved in everything. Joy also thought she knew best what her grandmother needed, so she wrote things into her care plan without asking first.

Joy’s effort to “take care” of her grandmother backfired.

“I thought I was anticipating her needs. But she said, ‘You don’t think for me. I’m still the boss.’ That was very eye-opening to me,” Joy said. “I thought I could write her care plan blindfolded. People change, and you have to respect that.”

That experience stayed with Joy once she moved from activities into social work. She has been director of social services at Manor of the Plains for 12 years.

March is National Social Work Month — “an opportunity for social workers across the country to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society,” according to the National Association of Social Workers. But not everyone understands the role of the social worker in long term care.

Joy’s job is to be the residents’ advocate and ensure that their needs are met, and their wishes are honored. She also helps helps families navigate the transition to long term care.

“Nursing talks in a different language sometimes, and families don’t always understand their terminology. So I’m kind of that liaison, to put things in layman’s terms,” Joy said.

Joy also evaluates residents for signs of cognitive changes or depression, and she updates care plans to keep current with residents’ changing needs or desires. One of her favorite tasks is interviewing residents to write their social histories.

“They’re so important because you learn about their lives — not only as a youngster, but how they grew up, and what their interests were then and now. They’re teachers, they’re lawyers, they were in the military,” Joy said. “I get personally involved and get to share their profiles with others. It gives our CNA staff something to talk about when they provide care.”

Our residents get to know Joy quite well, too. They know she’ll be wearing Jayhawk or Royals gear when her teams are playing. They’ve watched Joy’s granddaughter, Sophia, grow from a baby to a little girl, napping next to Granny in her office or joining in on exercise classes. And in the summer, they enjoy dispatches from Joy in her happy place, with family at Table Rock Lake.

Her dedication is appreciated throughout our community. “Joy would move a mountain to help you if that was the task,” said Marketing Director Kurt Lampe.