THE CHARITY LIST
“Care giving is not always easy, and anyone who works in a long-term care environment does find the work exhausting,” said Pat Bielman, who works with Deirdre Downes.
But if Downes is exhausted by her work as an advocate and social worker for aging adults, she certainly doesn’t show it.
When asked what was most fulfilling about her job, the New York native replied, “I think that through helping to ease peoples’ burdens as they go through the many transitions of aging,” Downes said, “I get a lot back in return.”
By helping others to maneuver the maze of healthcare providers and insurance policies, Downes says she feels rewarded because she is making a difference.
Downes is the corporate director of social work for Jewish Home Lifecare, a long-term care and rehabilitation facility on West 106th Street. She also chairs the Directors of Social Work committee for the New York Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Both positions involve managing a team of social workers, but on different scales. Downes also speaks at conferences and writes papers, and still manages to find time to pursue a doctoral degree in social welfare at CUNY.
Downes’ colleagues describe her as a role model for social workers and a representative of her profession to the wider healthcare community.
“She’s a very involved and caring individual,” Bielman said. “She’s very devoted when it comes to making sure that people have quality, meaning and dignity in their lives, especially as they age.”
Downes has spent much of her career working to keep elders living independently and bringing comfort to people who do not have another support system. She is often the only point of direct contact that an elder’s family has with the organization.
Downes started her career in social work at age 17 as a part-time assistant at Ozanam Hall, a nursing home in Queens. She worked the late shift from midnight to 8 a.m. This summer position, which she accepted without any long-term intent, evolved into full-time career.
“I used to love talking to people in the nursing home,” she said. “Contrary to what people think, there is a lot of life in nursing homes. I just love the rich history and the connections.”
Downes attended Barnard College as an undergraduate and earned her master’s degree in social work from Hunter College. She has lived on the Upper West Side for 17 years and raised and educated her two children there.
“I love the Upper West Side,” she said. “I think there’s a real sense of family, political activism and community here.”
With additional reporting by Stephanie Lee.
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