Colleen Schloemann helps elderly deal with challenges of growing older
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Colleen Schloemann helps elderly deal with challenges of growing older

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Colleen Schloemann

Colleen Schloemann is an independent licensed clinical social worker who knows and understands what elderly people go through.

Once we retire, we are supposed to be living what many call the golden years. Yet for many, those years are difficult, wrought with challenges.

Colleen Schloemann knows and understands what elderly people go through and that is why she has specifically focused her counseling practice on caring for and assisting older people with navigating the mental health and emotional struggles that come with aging.

“People contact me for the same reasons that they people in any age group reach out for help: depression, anxiety, adjusting to new situations, coping with relationships and more,” the Herrin-based licensed clinical social worker said, adding that there are other issues that the elderly face as well.

“Grief is the big one that stands out,” she said. “When you are elderly, it seems you are bombarded with losses.”

Schloemann says the list of things that people face as they age is extensive.

“You have to be resilient to get old and you didn’t get there without suffering through pain and hardships, but when you are old, they seem to come all at once: You might lose a spouse and then you have health issues, then your vision may fade and you might lose your driver’s license and then maybe even move out of your home. That means you are away from your family and friends and can feel isolated. Sometimes it is just so overwhelming,” she said.

She says through her years of experience — Schloemann began working with older adults in 1981 — she has been able to develop an approach to counseling specifically designed to help people as the age.

“My orientation is strength based,” she said. “We start with their strengths. Everybody has great strength and the elder have more strengths than many younger people; they have had a lifetime to develop them.”

She adds that she uses cognitive behavioral therapy to help her clients. She says that she works with some clients for just a few sessions, for others a long-term approach works best.

“That’s what mental health professionals do; we try to bring a sense of calm. The reason people reach out is that they want to feel better. We are here to help them achieve life satisfaction.”

The willingness of people to seek help has grown, she says.

“I noticed early in the 1980s that elderly people were not getting mental health treatment because of a stigma,” she said. “Plus, Medicare would not reimburse for it then.”

Medicare changed their policy in 1989 and Schloemann says the perception of seeing a counselor.

“I’ve seen the stigma decrease,” she said. “People now are willing to get mental health care without being embarrassed. They want to be with somebody where it’s confidential and trusting. That stigma has been erased for this generation.”

She adds that seniors now have more options for living arrangements than when she first began her practice.

“It used to be that if you couldn’t take care of yourself or be with your family, you went to a nursing home,” she says, adding that assisted living facilities have filled a gap for many seniors.

Schloemann says her practices is holistic, considering social, spiritual and emotional aspects as well as physical condition and their environment. In fact, she stresses environment.

Her practice is unique in that all of her counseling sessions are conducted in clients’ own homes. She says it both eases the burden on clients and helps her get to know them better.

“There are people with transportation issues and there are some with physical limitations. A lot of people don’t realize that for many elderly, getting out of the house is not simply a matter of getting dressed and hopping in the car. Getting to medical appointments can be quite traumatic for them,” she said.

She says it also is a relief for her clients not to have to go to one more appointment.

“It is stressful for them to have too many appointments,” she said. “There are visits to their primary doctor, maybe to the eye doctor or the orthopedic office and more. They look at their calendars and there are so many appointments, it is a relief to have me come to them.

Schloemann says making the house calls can really make a difference.

“I know that some of my clients would not get therapy if I didn’t go to them,” she said.

Of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the “at home” appointments are happening in driveways or backyards with appropriate social distancing. She explains it is one way to change her approach to make sure clients get the care they need.

She says one other thing has changed over the years with her practice.

“It used to be that I was working with people who were 70 years older than me; now I don’t have anyone that’s more than 35 years older,” she said with a smile.

For more on Schloeman, call 618-889-1014 or visit www.colleenschloemannlcsw.com.

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