The community of Starobilsk is preparing the creation of a new team of social workers to improve services for elderly living in remote areas. The team consists of a social worker, a hairdresser, a nurse and a handyman who regularly visit remote villages and provide a variety of professional assistance and elementary services. 

In the past, social and other elementary services were provided mainly in the territorial center of Starobilsk municipality and in villages close by. Other more remote villages of the community, such as Kalmykivka, Svitle, Lyman, Proizhdzhe, Tytarivka, remained uncovered by social services. 

In remote villages, single elderly people and people with disabilities lack elementary handyman’s services, such as help with mowing the grass, sawing firewood, removing snow, making minor repairs like fixing doors or windows. To apply for a public social subsidy or even pay for utilities, they also need the assistance of a social worker. Furthermore, the team includes a nurse, who will be responsible for conducting health screening and providing first aid. 

The “Social Mobile Team” was part of the social service strategy of Starobilsk which was prepared with the support of the project “EU4ResilientRegions – Special Assistance Programme Ukraine”. Community’ and social institution’ management were consulted by GIZ experts about the best way for social mobile team to operate within the financial capacity of the community. With the assistance of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union, which are co-financing the project, the mobile team will get all the necessary tools to provide new service to local citizens. 

Nurse Vira Yakivna Sholukh, member of the multidisciplinary team of the Starobilsk Territorial Center for Social Services, agreed to talk about her daily tasks, clients, and the challenges the project addresses. 

Could you tell about yourself and your professional background? 

“My professional specialization is a paramedic obstetrician. I have worked as a professional nurse for 26 years, of which 20 years in the neurological department and six years in the ambulance. After some time, I was invited to work at the Starobilsk Territorial Center for Social Services, where I was working as a massage therapist for 12 years.” 

Who are the clients of community massage services in the country area?  

“My clients are primarily people over 50 and people with disabilities, some of them may be around 40. They have various health issues which make it hard for them to work or live normally, such as pinched or sciatic nerves. 

One patient has cerebral palsy. He finds it challenging to take care of himself and cannot sit for a long time at a table where he often writes poetry. I visit him 2-3 times a year to give massages. He tells me: “Vira Yakivna, you already know my back, let’s deal with it." I give him a back massage and a general “head to toe" massage. He has severe back problems, and my massage helps reduce pain so he can devote more time to writing poetry. Another client of mine, a doctor, says that my massages help her the most compared to those she got in other places. She says that I have “golden hands". 

People who come for procedures often complain about everyday problems. But it’s hard to hear about other people’s problems all day. So, I bring an old radio and always listen to Radio Relax. People listen to music and during the procedure, they relax more and get distracted from sad thoughts.”  

Could you tell about your role in a multidisciplinary team? 

“For my visits as a part of the team, I won’t give many massages, one session is not enough, to bring positive effect to the patient at least 10 sessions required. So, I will work as a nurse given my professional experience.  Unfortunately, my first aid equipment is old. 

Even now, I sometimes have to assist as a nurse. During my shifts in the veterans’ club, elderly people who attend events at the University of the Third Age often approach me. They sing or do gymnastics there. I measure their blood pressure and give general advice. 

My role on trips will be mainly consultations, when I can check which pills a person has, when they expire, what is better to take in what circumstances, or who to contact if there are complaints. Also, when I have the new equipment, I will measure blood pressure, check blood sugar, and measure saturation. Local elderly women are typically happy when teams visit them, so they can chat or ask to solve a problem, fix plumbing, mow the grass, chop firewood, or get expert advice.” 

Are people now receiving social assistance in remote villages? 

“In some villages, there is a social worker, but not in all of them. That is why the work of such mobile teams will be vital for them. As for massages, people come from villages near Starobilsk. For example, Pidhorivka is pretty close, you only need to walk through the grove and cross the bridge. But some people come from more remote villages. This year one such client came, said she had to take a minibus, sometimes a taxi to get there, and it costs 35 hryvnias only one way. Despite it was costly for her, she still went through the whole massage course.” 

People like Vira know how to provide quality care and increase the comfort of life in newly created communities. To do this, the schedule of multidisciplinary teams must be well planned, and the teams themselves equipped with everything necessary. Assistance from the “EU4ResilientRegions – Special Assistance Programme Ukraine” helped to create the concept of the mobile teams. In a next step, the community of Starobilsk will launch the mobile services to residents in remote villages in the end of February.