Liisa Vaara-Lewis is a highly valued member of our team at The Probate ProSM. Serving as the case manager and social worker, Liisa helps in a variety of ways for our clients, providing care and compassion – never giving up on them. We got to sit down with Liisa and speak with her about how she’s making a difference in people’s lives.
The Probate ProSM (TPP): Liisa, what brought you to The Probate Pro?
Liisa: Darren Findling reached out to a colleague of mine, asking if she knew of any good social workers. I’ve always worked in the medical field and I dealt with many attorneys and guardians. I thought to myself, “they need a social worker in this practice.” The questions they asked me were really easy for me to answer, so I thought this was groundbreaking when I heard of this opportunity, because it’s rare that a firm has a social worker.
TPP: So you aren’t just a social worker, you’re a case manager too. Those are some big hats to wear. What’s your life like as a case manager and social worker?
Liisa: We have a lot of people that we take care of here that need help with doctors’ appointments. I attend the appointments, coordinate care, coordinate medical care – maybe if they need physical therapy or occupational therapy, I’ll coordinate that too. We’ve had people hospitalized for a medical situation. I can coordinate them to go to a rehab center temporarily and arrange all the services when they go back home – I act as an overseer of any of their needs that they may have.
TPP: We get many clients here, so this has to be a lot of work right?
Liisa: Yes, not only am I involved with doctors’ appointments, but I’m involved with their team meetings if they’re involved in an auto accident. There are team meetings usually every three months, so there are a lot of things to coordinate and a lot of last minute things also. I might arrive to work and find out that one of our clients is in the hospital and off I go. I like to see them as soon as I can to get updates from the doctors and nurses. The hospital sometimes won’t talk with you unless you have the guardianship papers in front of them. So yes, a lot of last minute things and also a lot of things that are scheduled in advance such as doctor’s appointments and meetings.
TPP: But it’s more than the client, right? You must be working with others as well when dealing with individual cases.
Liisa: That’s right. I’ll work with doctors, as well as family members. There’s a reason why we might be the guardian, as opposed to the family member. The family member wants to be involved in our clients life, but they might have issues that makes it difficult for them to be the Guardian. There’s a lot of delicacy in regards to keeping them informed, but also keeping them at arms length. That can take a lot of coordination to make sure everyone is happy, because everyone wants to be in the loop.
TPP: What are some of the other things you do on a daily basis?
Liisa: I coordinate all the Annual Reports of Guardians. It’s a simple form, but it’s intimidating, so there’s a lot of hand holding that goes along. I’ll give them the form, talk with them over the phone to assist them and occasionally they come to the office to complete it. The other part of my day is coordinating any necessary purchases for some of our clients. I can get a call at the last minute and the client is at the doctor’s office and are in need of a bill payment before they can get their medication. So there’s a lot of things that you aren’t planning to do until you come in the morning. I have a general knowledge of what my day’s going to be like, but when I arrive, my day may be completely different.
TPP: So as a social worker and case manager, what’s the big difference between yourself and everyone here?
Liisa: What’s unique about being a social worker at The Probate Pro – I have a lot of information as far as community resources. Legal professionals might not know what a physical therapist is, but because I have been in this field for 20 plus years, I can recommend a good therapist or a rehab center. I know where a good hospital is, where a bad hospital is, so that’s kind of why I was brought here to The Probate Pro – the firm can tap into my knowledge and resources.
Anyone can Google and search anything you want, but that’s not always a good source of information. I can get a call from a client saying he or she needs some help or even a colleague that might need help with a loved one. They would call me and say that someone is in the hospital and ask me for a recommendation on a rehab center for example. I have a lot of contacts that I can reach out to and make sure that person gets a little extra care than they would if they just Googled a facility.
TPP: Sounds like a huge undertaking of responsibility. With that responsibility has to come the reward – seeing your client happy in the end – right?
Liisa: Absolutely – at the end of every day I try to remember how I helped someone or made a difference in their lives. It might be a client, a colleague, maybe just somebody out on the sidewalk, but I end every day with that thought.
TPP: You’ve been doing this for 20 plus years. This job requires care and selflessness, right?
Liisa: It does, and that’s why I went into this industry in the first place. Some of our clients can present obstacles, and it takes some time and patience to deal with them. When I was in college, I worked at a campground during the summer time and I was always enjoying my time working with the older population. That’s why I got into this field when I was at Michigan State. Most of my experience prior to The Probate Pro was in geriatrics, so I just have a very soft spot for helping people and I’ve done it for a long, long time.
TPP: When you’re out of the office, what do you usually do?
Liisa: My husband of 35 years and I like to go Up North. We recently built a home in Bellaire where we try to spend every weekend. We eventually want to retire there. There’s always some great town with a new restaurant that’s fun to try out. The winter sports are fun and of course there are some amazing lakes up there. We just really enjoy being able to explore and see the great natural frontiers of northern Michigan – the Upper Peninsula as well! I’m also a new grandmother, which is very exciting.