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Published on May 09, 2018

elderly couple

'It sets us apart' Gundersen Palmer social workers offer care, support

For a combined 36 years, social workers Janell McElree, LBSW, and Bea Guenther, LBSW, have cared for patients in West Union and the surrounding communities at Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Hospital.

Janell McElree, LBSW

"It is remarkable that we are able to offer social work services 24 hours a day and 7 days a week," says Janell. "That is unique, and it sets us apart from other healthcare organizations.

We see patients across the organization: hospital, the emergency department, home health, hospice, surgery and the clinic." Bea adds, "There is so much that we do, it is hard to mention it all."

Hospice support

Janell and Bea meet with hospice care patients and families in their homes. "Often, we've already formed a relationship with the patient while they were in the hospital or clinic. The rapport is already there," describes Janell. The team aims to educate the patient and family about diagnosis, death and dying. Bea says, "We provide support and companionship."

Bea Guenther, LBSW

Bereavement support

Anyone in the community who has experienced a loss can reach out for grief
support at Gundersen Palmer. "Some people want to meet just once and others want more support. We offer bereavement counseling even if a loved one was not in hospice or not a patient at the hospital," explains Bea.

Other patient support

Social workers help patients awaiting discharge to map out a plan for home selfcare. Janell says, "We are such a small hospital. If we see a family that is struggling with decisions, planning or experiencing conflict, we are able to assess the situation and assist in a resolution."

A passion for caring

Bea and Janell offer guidance for families and community members who are faced with a difficult time in their lives. "I was born and raised here, so it is very meaningful to be in West Union helping people at this time in their lives. That is why I do what I do," says Janell. Bea shares, "There are reasons why
many of us selected this area of work. Often it is because of something that happened in our lives that lead us down a path to help people through crises in their lives."

To learn more about available social work services in West Union, call (563) 422-3811.

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