Phase 3

Family Social Work Interview: Virginia and Her Family

Brickville: Virginia's Family from Andrew Maxwell Triska on Vimeo.


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Family Social Work Interview: Virginia and Her Family

ROBERT: So I'm glad we could all make it today. I'm going to go over a few things before we begin just so we're all on the same page. My name is Robert, and I'm a social worker here at Brickville Community Mental Health Services. I talked with Virginia earlier, and she said there were some issues that were creating tension in your family, and she asked me to call this meeting so that each of you could talk about those concerns.

RAYMOND: You know, some of these issues are really complex. I -- I don't know if we're going to get to everything today.

ROBERT: That's true. But this initial meeting is just to assess what issues you would like to work on. We don't need to come up with a plan or make decisions right now.

VIRGINIA: I'd like to start, if that's okay.

[Murmurs of "okay" and "that's fine."]

ROBERT: Virginia, you can go ahead. What's on your mind?

VIRGINIA: I'm really stressed out about Mom. I feel like I'm not getting the help I need. I can't be a full-time nurse. I've got kids to take care of. I can't give them the attention they need -- they're stressed out -- I feel like I'm being spread too thin. Nobody's helping me.

JOHN: Wait, wait, that's not really fair to me and Estella. I mean, we help when we can. Uh, it's not like we live close by. We can't be here every week.

VIRGINIA: John, I'm not asking you to be here every week. I just don't want to be the only one whose job it is to take care of Mom.

ROBERT: So you feel like you can't do it with the help you're getting.

VIRGINIA: Exactly.

ROBERT: What kinds of things do you think you need more help with?

VIRGINIA: You know I hate asking for money, but it's a big financial burden. I have the medical stuff, transportation, I have to hire a health aide when I can't be there -- it's expensive.

RAYMOND: I sent a check a while ago. I mean, I'd like to do it more often, but, you know, I'm doing the best that I can.

VIRGINIA: I know. And it helped, it did. It's just inconsistent. I never know if I'm going to have enough money to pay for the stuff the insurance won't cover. Like, when her shower chair broke last week, I had to buy a new one, and I had literally three dollars in my checking account. It would just be nice to get regular amounts so I know what my budget's going to be for the month.

ROBERT: So you would say that your biggest concern is your mother's care.


ROBERT: What are some other concerns that have come up lately? I talked with Virginia about this earlier as well, but I wanted to hear from other family members.

ESTELLA: I really want to talk about the memorial playground because it's sort of been hanging over our heads. I talked about this with Virginia, but we've gotten nowhere. I don't understand why we're being asked to put more money and effort into it. It was twenty years ago, and I think we've moved past it by now. If I had anything to spare, I'd want to help with Mom, not buy new swings for the playground.

ROBERT: So it's not a priority for you.

ESTELLA: Right, I mean, look at it. It's a dump. Fixing it up would take a lot more than we have to give.

JOHN: I agree with Estella. It's just too much of a project to take on right now.

ROBERT: So you don't care about the playground at all, even though it's so important to your sister?

ESTELLA: I didn't mean that, no. I do care. We have to prioritize. Taking care of our family is more important.

RAYMOND: Look, since we're not getting anywhere on this whole playground thing, can we talk about more important issues, like the house? I mean, Legal Aid, you know, they say they're getting back to me, but they have too many cases and they're taking forever.

ROBERT: What happens if you don't move quickly enough?

RAYMOND: If the community redevelops, then we don't have a title, and we could use the house -- and we won't even see a dime from the sale.

ESTELLA: Right. We could lose everything.

JOHN: Wait a minute, I -- I don't see why everyone is digging their heels in against the redevelopment. I mean, the neighborhood's improving. If -- if Virginia would sell the house or be willing to, we could get a lot more money than you did a few years ago. And then you and Winifred could move out near us.

VIRGINIA: I can't move Mom. She couldn't take it.

JOHN: Why not? Brickville isn't exactly a safe place for the kids, and it's not even a safe place for your mom.

ROBERT: You're worried that they might not be safe.

JOHN: I've been worried ever since the neighborhood's going down. It's more important to me -- the safety -- than to stay in Brickville.

ROBERT: So your priority is safety, not staying in the community.

JOHN: Right.

ROBERT: Virginia, why is it important to you to stay in Brickville?

VIRGINIA: Moving would kill Mom. She's been in Brickville her whole life. Everyone she knows is there. She would never willingly sell the house.

JOHN: Just trying to help.

VIRGINIA: If you want to help, help with the physical therapy bills. They're only a month behind.

ROBERT: John, why is this important to you?

JOHN: Well, I obviously care about Virginia and the kids very much. I don't like to see them live like this. But if they move out near us, we could help out a lot more.

ROBERT: So you want Virginia and her family to have a better life.

JOHN: Yeah.

ROBERT: Raymond, you talked about the importance of establishing legal ownership of the house. I talked about that with Virginia earlier also. Why is that important to you?

RAYMOND: Well, obviously, if the community gets redeveloped, then Mom and Virginia could get displaced. No one would get any kind of money from the sale of the house, and Mom could end up in a nursing home.

ROBERT: And you don't want that.

RAYMOND: No, I don't want that.

ESTELLA: None of us want that. If it's possible, even remotely possible, we want Mom to live at home.

VIRGINIA: But it's becoming less possible. I'm under so much stress, I feel like I could give way at any moment. And I don't know if I could handle it if we had another incident, like last year when she fell in the kitchen.

ROBERT: So it seems like making sure Winifred is cared for is a big priority for all of you.

JOHN: Of course it is.

ROBERT: So, then, I'd like to ask permission for this to be the focus of our next meeting. I think figuring out how each of you can care for Winifred would be a big asset.

ESTELLA: I'd be okay with that.

JOHN: That's fine with me.

RAYMOND: Okay, let's make it a priority, then.

ROBERT: Great. I'm glad you can all agree on this. So, for the next meeting, we'll discuss how each of us can help with Winifred's care.

[Murmurs of "okay," "sounds good."]


ROBERT: Thank you, everyone, for showing up today. I know that we're all really busy, so I'm glad you were able to make it.

VIRGINIA: I've had a hard time getting out of the house this week. I've got a health aide watching Mom, a babysitter watching the kids -- I'm exhausted.

ROBERT: Sounds like you've had a really busy, stressful week.

VIRGINIA: That is an understatement.

ROBERT: Well, if it's all right with everyone, I think it would be a good idea to go over Winifred's care needs. Virginia, why don't you talk about some of the things that you're having trouble with at home, and we can figure out ways to fill those gaps.

VIRGINIA: It's mainly two things. First, I went over the household budget and I'm estimating that we need and extra $200 a month just to stay afloat without having to borrow money. The bills are just getting too high. Second, it's the caregiving. I want to be able to go to a hair appointment. I want to be able to hang out with my friends. I'd really like it if one of you could come over and help out a couple of times a week.

ESTELLA: I don't know if I could do that. That's a long drive, and John and I have a lot going on right now.

VIRGINIA: See? There you go, right away. Always dismissing everything I say.

ESTELLA: I'm not dismissing you. I want to help, but I can't commit that much time.

ROBERT: Well, Estella, it sounds like you really do want to help.

ESTELLA: I do. I want to.

VIRGINIA: Then make time. I've given my whole life to this. The least you can do is spare a weekend or two.

ROBERT: Estella, you look a little angry. Why don't you tell us -- how did that affect you?

ESTELLA: It's not like I want to help -- that I don't want to help Mom. It's just that I can't do it the way Virginia wants.

ROBERT: So you can't visit as often as you would like.

ESTELLA: Right. John and I can't -- just can't get away right now.

ROBERT: Okay, well, why don't you talk to us about a few of the ways you can help out?

ESTELLA: Well, John and I talked about it last night, and we think we can spare a hundred a month. We want Mom to have the best of care.

VIRGINIA: You can do that?

JOHN: Yeah, well, we know you've been struggling, and we weren't in a place financially before to help out, but things have gotten a lot better now.

VIRGINIA: That means a lot to me. It would really help me pay down some of the larger bills.

RAYMOND: Well...I want to help, too. But I'm just not in the -- just not in the best financial place right now. I -- I -- you know, and I don't live close enough, so, you know, I can't visit as often. I just don't know what I can do.

ROBERT: Well, that must be really frustrating. Uh, Virginia told me about some of the ways you helped out in the past. What did you do then?

RAYMOND: Well, I -- I've sent money before, especially when they were really hurting and I knew that they needed it, but, you know, right now, I mean, well -- I'll be honest, it's -- I kind of feel helpless. You know? I'm just not in a position where I can help, you know?

ROBERT: What other kinds of help can you give -- other than money?

RAYMOND: Um, I don't know. Well, I'm sure Mom would probably like it if I came over and visited more. Uh...I mean, maybe I can come by every other weekend? I mean, I mean, that doesn't really seem like that much, either, so I don't know.

ROBERT: Virginia, what do you think of Raymond's, um, response?

VIRGINIA: I love that. The kids really like it when you come over. If you could come and watch them a couple weekends a month, that would help so much.

RAYMOND: I'd love to help. Whatever -- whatever I can do. That's fine.

VIRGINIA: But Mom and me need so much more. I feel terrible saying this, because I know how much everybody is trying to help, but I just don't know if it's going to be enough.

ROBERT: So it sounds like -- that you're, you're grateful for your family's help, but you're also worried that it might not be enough and you need other resources.

ESTELLA: I actually looked into some organizations that could provide respite care for Mom that could save you money on hiring a health aide if you're eligible. I know some people at the Brickville Senior Initiative and maybe I could contact them.

ROBERT: Great. I think that'd be really helpful. In the meantime, I'll look into some local community organizations and see how they can help. Um, so why don't we go over some of the steps that we've covered. Estella and John, what are going to be your tasks for the next week?

ESTELLA: I'm going to call my friend and the Brickville Senior Initiative and see what Virginia will need to do to apply. And John and I will write this month's check.

ROBERT: That sounds great. Raymond, what about you?

RAYMOND: I'm going to call Virginia and we're gonna look at the calendar and figure out which weekends work best for both of us.

ROBERT: Great. And, as I said, I'll look into some local community organizations. Um, so I know there were some other things that you wanted to discuss, and I think it'd be a good idea to bring them in for the next week. What do you think about that?

RAYMOND: Great, because I really want us to talk about our Legal Aid case.

JOHN: Yeah, I'd like to talk about the redevelopment a little bit more.

ROBERT: Okay, so then what we'll do next week is discuss some of the other matters that have been affecting the family. See you all next week.


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