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April Emebo

woman smiling at the camera“They called me an ‘old baby’,” April Emebo explains of her childhood. As the youngest of 10 children, she was surrounded by older people. In her house, at her relatives’ homes, or helping her mother run a senior shuttle for her church, Emebo has been working with elders since the age of five.

“I remember running meals in to the seniors,” she recalls. “I remember setting up the step stool to help them on the bus. We would bring our seniors food, and then take them to activities at our center.”

Emebo started out with a degree in long term care administration and began her career as a staffing coordinator at a home health agency. “I enjoyed the work, and the owner was a wonderful mentor for me,” she says. “Then one day, I saw a presentation about senior social work, and I loved the idea.”

Fifteen years later, she is still loving it. As a Social Services Worker at the County’s Division of Senior and Adult Services, she enjoys the ‘hands-on’ aspect of social work. “When you first meet a client, their world is falling down around them,” she explains. “Their house is dirty, they’re disheveled, their family is not helping them. Then you step in and help them get to a better place. It’s rewarding to see that their home is safe, they are clean and happy, and their children have stepped back into their lives.”

Emebo says she learns a great deal from her clients. “The more I learn from them, the better I can help them,” she says. “We develop a history together, to the point that the adult children ask me to step in when they need help resolving an issue.”

Emebo knows all too well the challenges of being a caregiver. “I cared for my grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s,” she recounts. “Every day, I would come home from work to help her bathe and eat, and then she would kick me out,” she says amusingly. “My grandmother no longer recognized me, so I needed to find creative ways to stay in her home so I could care for her.”

Emebo says she loves her seniors. Her longest client has been with her for 10 years. “I’ve seen grandkids born, I’ve seen health decline, I’ve heard about trips and hobbies and memories.” She shares the story of one visually disabled client whose guardian takes her on a trip to a new state every year. “I enjoy hearing her excitement about her upcoming adventures and her experiences when she returns. She makes a point to attend a baseball game wherever she goes, and to enjoy the food and the weather.”

Compassion, Emebo says, is the most important trait one needs for a career in social work. “You are not going to get rich, you are not always going to feel appreciated, your clients are not always going to be happy to see you,” she explains. “You don’t do this for the money. You do this because you love helping the people.”