People fall every day. We fall behind. We fall apart. We, literally and figuratively, fall on our faces. When asked how Emilie Ratterman, Intake & Referral Specialist, found herself working with older adults, she simply said, “I fell into it.” Maybe it wasn’t just coincidence, but perhaps geriatric social work stuck out its foot and purposely tripped her, as it knew that the elderly population needed her. And for the past thirty years, through trial and error, Emilie has found her footing, and stands both firm and committed to the clients she serves.
In 1989 a friend encouraged Emile to apply for an Outreach Coordinator position through Oxford Senior Center, and they offered her the job. Emilie accepted the position, although admitted she was nervous working with a new population, as she had worked for the previous five years with Big Brothers Big Sisters. In 1997 she became a care manager and remained at Oxford Senior Center until 2004 when a medical hardship forced her to step back from the care manager role. Although she assumed her preference was working with families, this experienced showed her how attached she really was to her elderly clients. “It was very hard to let them go,” she remembers. After working part-time with both Oxford Senior Center and LifeSpan for the next few years, in 2008 she began her full-time position with LifeSpan as Intake and Referral Specialist while eventually earning her AIRS (Information and Referral) certification. This position has given the opportunity to advocate for her clients in a different way. “This job has worked out very well for me,” Emilie says. “I’ve learned a lot about myself, my talents, and my weaknesses.”
Over the thirteen years that Emilie has been with LifeSpan, she has witnessed a shift in the overall questions and needs of the people calling in. “Callers with health problems are now younger,” she says. “We are also seeing more family members living with the clients.” But the feeling of helping others hasn’t changed. “When people say I have helped them and thank me profusely, I feel like I’m in the right place,” she says. “For some, it is educating them about elder care in relation to what they are experiencing with their parent. For others, it is calming them down and helping them gain perspective.”
Regardless of who is on the other end of the line, through her knowledge and calming spirit, Emilie helps the person prioritize their needs and most importantly assures them that they are not alone in their current circumstances.
Emilie always told herself that once she turned seventy that she would retire, and with this milestone quickly approaching, she knew the time was right for her to make this difficult decision. In this next chapter, she plans on doing things that she hasn’t had the time to do while working full time. “Sleep later… go to the gym in the morning when I have more energy… gets some body parts repaired… convince my husband to retire, too, so we can take those trips we said we would take.”
She will also continue giving to the community through volunteering, specifically with OSHIIP, an organization Emilie has been involved for twenty plus years; “almost as long as they have been around”. And we may find her tucked into the Intake and Referral corner helping with some organization and the updating of community resources.
She has some sound advice for those entering this field: “Go in with the attitude that there are always things to learn,” she says. “Think creatively when helping a person problem solve. Even if your idea seems out there, it means you are thinking and may come up with some solutions. And be open to guidance whether from a supervisor, a co-worker or if you have faith, God.”
Emilie fell into this field, and over time, LifeSpan staff and clients fell, too. They fell in love with her. Emilie’s insight, passion, and commitment is a testimony to the thousands of lives she has touched. We thank her for her contributions to LifeSpan, and hope everything will continue to fall into place in her life.