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Caregiver Spotlight: Ellen Falvo, LISW-S, Mental Health

Recent studies show that one out of every five American adults will have a mental illness in his or her lifetime. Yet, more than half do not receive help. Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio is working to address this problem by providing care for patients in the comfort of their own home, wherever they call home. 

A hallmark program in the community, VNA of Ohio works closely with community mental health agencies and often receives referrals when individuals are discharged from psychiatric hospitals and facilities.

At the start of care, a team of mental health professionals, including psychiatric nurses, social workers and state-tested nursing assistants, is deployed to help individuals address a range of diagnoses and concerns. A crucial member of this team is the social worker.

Meet Ellen Falvo LISW-S, a social worker who has been working with VNA of Ohio for just over three years.

On a normal day, she will see between four and five patients a day for an hour at a time. She wears several hats: providing counseling to help patients reduce symptoms and improve coping skills to linking them up with important community resources such as Passport, Options for Elders, housing, food stamps, transportation and others. “It’s a great fit,” she said. “I’m so glad to be working with VNA.”

Throughout the day, she’s in touch with the VNA of Ohio treatment team to consult on the patient’s care and concerns, and she depends on the input of other team members.

Occasionally, Ellen will consult with other departments, such as Rehabilitation, Med-Surg and Home Assist. “I believe this is beneficial for the patient because they have a multi-disciplinary team coordinating their care and they feel supported,” she said.

For the most part, she works with patients who are 55 years and older and receiving Medicare. Her patients have chronic physical and mental health conditions, which is why it’s important to have the team-approach to patient care. The diagnoses of her patients range from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder to depressive and anxiety disorders. She also sometimes works with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Every job comes with challenges and struggles and Ellen says that sometimes she wishes that progress moved faster. “I wish I could solve everything in that first visit,” she said. “But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.” Counseling and intervention take time. It could be months before she witnesses any positive outcomes.

In some cases, she works with patients for lengthy periods of time. One patient worked with Ellen, met her goals and then was discharged. Later on, though, a family member passed away and the patient had a symptom relapse. Ellen says “It’s common to see a relapse in symptoms when a loved one passes.” Working together with skilled nurses, a home health aide, occupation and physical therapists, Ellen counseled the patient and initiated social services for the patient to get her back on track to meet her goals. The patient and her family were so grateful for VNA and helped her feel supported and cared for in a time of great need. “This is why I got into this field,” Ellen said. “To see a patient feel that way.”

Social work is not for everyone. However, Ellen discovered that this was her calling after a volunteering stint while still an undergrad at Cleveland State University. “I am passionate about helping people and learning their stories,” she said. She went on to earn her advanced degree in social work from Case Western Reserve University.

She told us, “I enjoy collaborating with my co-workers and seeing patient’s happiness when they have achieved their goals.”

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Call VNA of Ohio Today

VNA of Ohio provides in home mental health services in Cleveland and surrounding areas. We also provide skilled nursing, rehabilitation, hospice, mental health home care and private-duty home healthcare to patients, wherever they call home. Learn more about VNA of Ohio home healthcare services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.