It was a virtual connection Latasha Cardenas and Danielle Stouder will never forget.

While a Veteran was getting inpatient treatment for COVID-19, the Veteran’s wife was in another hospital, fighting the same virus. Staff didn’t expect her to make it through the next day. The Veteran’s daughter, the caregiver for both, was quarantined at home.

The two Iowa City VA social workers collaborated with the outside hospital to pull together a last FaceTime connection for the Veteran and his wife. After 58 years of marriage, they were able to have a last conversation and say their goodbyes. The Veteran’s wife died shortly after they spoke.

The Veteran has fully recovered and soon will be transitioning to assisted living. His family has been extremely thankful for everything.

“I’m passionate about social work and people. During a pandemic, I wouldn’t be anywhere else than fostering relationships and helping family communication and connection for our Veterans,” Stouder said. “I am glad we were there to help. The situation was challenging and sad but being able to make this connection was important for the Veteran and his wife.”

Cardenas (left) and Stouder are pictured above.

Social Workers finding solutions to barriers

Social work has been an integral part of the Iowa City VA COVID-19 response. It continues to play a large part in the “Moving Forward” plan as leaders consider early phases of recovery.

“Patient care is the best part of social work. We’re advocating for patients and finding solutions when barriers present themselves. We care for patients in all aspects of life, when there is ‘normal’ and especially when there is no normal. Caring for people and their families is what we do best, it’s always an honor,” Stouder said.

Supporting Services for High Risk Veterans

VA has a large network of social work services for some of the most vulnerable Veterans, including:

  • Homeless Outreach
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Hematology/Oncology
  • Transplant
  • Dialysis
  • Mental health
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Long term care planning
  • And more

These patients have social, mental and physical health conditions that compound their risk for serious illness due to COVID-19. Social Workers help to monitor and educate patients on how they can stay safe and healthy during the pandemic response.

They also help with family connections, housing issues, food security and other situations that may compound their risk of exposure or illness. They are involved in all elements of a patient’s life and care.

Social workers like Stouder and Cardenas and the social work teams at VA play a critical role in the COVID-19 response. They add compassion, expertise and innovation to the patient experience.

Bryan Clark is a public affairs specialist at the Iowa City VA Medical Center.

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Published on Jul. 17, 2020

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One Comment

  1. Paula Minger July 17, 2020 at 3:59 pm

    Our Elderphysically wounded Vets need equal safety of home Caregiver Stipend we pay Post 9/11

    Being bedridden or house bound w no ability to drive can cause major Depression

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