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National Social Work Month Spotlight: Jimena Alegre

This outstanding South Florida social worker deserves community recognition for helping others

March is National Social Work Month and the perfect time to pay tribute to those special professionals who choose to serve others and are beacons of light in our communities.

There is a gap today between the number of qualified social workers and society’s increasing demand for them, especially in the field of geriatrics. This is likely because social work can be an extremely demanding career. Those who enter the profession altruistically have high aspirations to promote the welfare of communities and individuals, yet they might find themselves frustrated by unmanageable caseloads, red tape and a lack of support.

Those who thrive in the profession despite such obstacles are extraordinarily passionate and caring professionals, such as Jimena Alegra, a geriatric social worker at Vi at Aventura, Jimena is respected by all who work with her as a role model for up-and-coming social workers. She graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in social work and began her career working with children and families.  Over the past 13 years, she has observed a growing need for social workers to help older adults and their families navigate the complicated world of health care and mental health networks. Reluctant at first to transition to a new field, Jimena is now glad she did. “The moments that I can provide companionship and make elderly residents smile or laugh are the moments that keep me going throughout my day,” she said.

According to data from the U.S. Census, by 2020, one in six Americans will be 65 and older.  This translates into a need for 70,000 geriatric social workers to help address the needs of aging baby boomers.

When asked what advice she would give a young person considering a career in social work, Jimena said, “B.S.W. graduates should immerse themselves in all aspects of the field prior to narrowing their focus in a graduate program. I never know what my day will hold. I juggle many responsibilities such as new admission assessments, client documentation, discharge arrangements and ongoing meetings with the elderly and their families. Time management, flexibility and patience are essential qualities for success in social work.”

Maintaining a positive attitude amid stress and time limitations, practicing patience and focusing on building a common rapport with all new patients contributes to her success, she explains.  “Finding a simple commonality, such as a mutual love for dogs, can immediately make a patient feel at ease.”

When asked about a memorable case of an elderly person and family she has helped, Jimena recollects a daughter who was overwhelmed taking care of her mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.  Jimena went out of her way to help the mother and daughter find an affordable assisted living facility, promptly transitioned the mother and arranged regular visits to help the mother and daughter adjust.

“I decided to become a social worker to help people,” said Jimena.  This simple statement sums up her extraordinary character and the difference she makes in people’s lives. Thank you, Jimena, for the tremendous work you do!

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