Making an Impact – Lack of In-Person Visits Makes Assessment Difficult

Assessing Clients During COVID

In the Making an Impact series, clients and services are featured to expand awareness of the wide array of help available at JFS and to ensure donors understand the lives they touch and the difference they make throughout the community. Client names have been changed to protect their confidentiality.

“I took the need for face to face visits for granted,” said JFS Care Coordinator Angela Renneberg. “Although you can complete annual client assessments over the phone, there are many facets of client interaction that require our professional observation.”

The ability to see a client is very important to our case management work. Our clients are generally  honest and trusting with case management staff and answer all their assessment questions. However, there are issues they don’t consider that may be dangerous. “Sometimes they don’t even know that something is wrong,” said Angela. “A client can tell me everything is fine, but I can see with my own eyes how much they are struggling with walking or getting up from the couch.” They’ve struggled for so long that they consider these difficulties normal.

When a client has additional diagnoses like memory loss, cognitive impairment or hearing loss, conducting phone assessments is even more troublesome. They often struggle to understand or hear questions. In these situations, case management staff relies on the client’s caregiver or loved one to speak for them. But with new clients, these people have not yet been identified, making the lengthy initial assessment challenging.

Phone connection and assessment is possible and necessary now, but it makes the establishment of a trusting relationship very difficult. “Even clients I’ve had for years are upset that I can’t come see them,” said Angela. “But when I explain that I am taking this precaution for the safety of both of us, they understand. We’re both anxious to see each other again.”

In the video below, JFS Contracted Case Management Director Jill Grover, LISW, talks about how the lack of in-person contact effects a case manager’s ability to accurately assess clients.