Helps Elderly Cope With Loss
Clark (M.A., '03) rings the doorbell and frowns. The
"ding dong" is much too soft, she notes. Then she leans her
head back to catch a glimpse of her client, 95-year-old Nathalia Glass,
waving from the upstairs window and tossing keys down to Clark, who unlocks
the front door, and heads upstairs.
When you're 95 years old, hard of hearing and have lived alone up a flight
of stairs in a San Francisco duplex for the past 20 years, you get creative
about how to make things work.
Clark's job is to help make things work just a little bit better.
Since earning a master's degree in counseling from San Francisco State
in May, Clark has worked for the Hearing Society for the Bay Area, a San
Francisco-based nonprofit that provides services to the hearing impaired.
Clark specializes in helping older people. A big part of her job involves
home visits so she can suggest ways to help people get along with their
"So many older adults are already so isolated," Clark says.
"Hearing loss often keeps them even more isolated from the phone
or from family."
Glass has been living on her own since her husband died two decades ago.
Her health is pretty good, she tells Clark, but recently she started having
"Can you communicate with your family?" Clark asks. She uses
something called a "pocket talker" to help Glass hear her more
clearly. It's a hand-held personal amplifier for people who don't have
hearing aids, but might need them. Clark recommends they try to get one
Their discussion revolves around what Clark can do to help Glass communicate
better with her children and grandchildren and to hear the TV. Clark makes
plans to replace Glass's phones with those with amplified ringers and
to get a door bell signal with a flashing light so she knows when someone's
at her front door without having to wait by the upstairs window.
The growing population of elderly, like Glass, convinced Clark to pursue
a career working with the aging deaf. San Francisco State had just the
program she needed, a specialization in rehabilitation counseling for
the deaf, and hard of hearing. There are only about half a dozen similar
counseling rehabilitation programs across the country, according to Professor
Alice Nemon, who started the program at SF State. Other graduates have
gone on to work at the state Department of Rehabilitation, with disabled
students at community colleges, and in residential treatment programs
for the deaf with mental illness.