May 29, 2015

By Beth Fitzgerald

Yolanda Nixson is Executive Care's director of social work.

Yolanda Nixson is Executive Care’s director of social work.

Executive Care, which provides home care to the elderly in northern New Jersey, has begun offering internships to Rutgers-Newark social work students who are considering a career in a growing field that helps seniors remain in their homes as they age.

The internship program was developed by Yolanda Nixson, a Rutgers graduate who last year joined Executive Care as director of social work.

The first Rutgers intern came on board last December, and Nixson said the idea is to give social work students an inside look at what’s involved in helping seniors cope with the challenges that make it difficult for them to remain at home, rather than in a nursing home.

Nixson said the baby boomers “are the generation that wants to age in place.” The interns will learn how the geriatric care manager deals with the issues involved in making that age-in-place choice a reality.

Nixson said “When you live long, you tend to have disabilities, but instead of looking at them as disabilities, we see them as new ways of living: this is your new norm.”

For example, if the patient’s eyesight declines, “There are tools that you can use at home that will make it easier for you to stay there and age in place.”

She said one patient returned home from the hospital and could no longer able to bend down and care for the cat; she rallied family members to form a team to take turns helping out. The care manager’s job, she said, “is to figure out: How does all this happen? How can we better serve our clients?”

Lenny Verkhoglaz of Executive Care.

Lenny Verkhoglaz of Executive Care. 

Lenny Verkhoglaz, chief executive of Hackensack-based Executive Care, said: “It is valuable for us to have interns because (home care) is an ever-changing environment and someone who is in school gives us a fresh perspective. And we want to give back to the students, and give them a realistic view of the challenges they will encounter” in their social work careers.

Phylis J. Peterman is associate professor and chair of the Department of Social Work at Rutgers-Newark. Social work is one of the largest majors on the Rutgers-Newark campus. Peterman said about 80 students graduate each year

Peterman said all the students do an internship and can chose from a wide variety of placements, including child welfare, substance abuse, health care and nursing homes.

“We always have a core group of students who want )to work with the elderly,” Peterman said.

People are living longer and “It is possible to keep people in their homes longer,” she added. “Society is developing ways to help ensure that happens. A lot of things that people would have to leave their homes for, and be placed in a nursing home or long term care, can be managed at home. I think it’s something whose time has come.”