Young Alumni Q & A: Shelbie Engelking advocates for older adults in Colorado

Shelbie Engelking, MSW

Shelbie Engelking joined Disability Law Colorado as the State PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) Ombudsman in January 2020. Previously, she worked with the Larimer County Office on Aging as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman. She has also worked for the Larimer County Single Entry Point as an intake case manager and has a background as a nursing home social services director. Engelking is a Colorado native and has bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Social Work (BSW, ’07), and a master’s degree in Social Work (MSW, ’10) from Colorado State University.

Describe your current position and some of the responsibilities that come with it.

As the State PACE Ombudsman, I am the independent, participant directed advocate for individuals who are part of the PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program in Colorado. My responsibilities include providing programmatic oversight and leadership as well as direct and systemic advocacy for all PACE participants outside of the Denver area. Three local PACE Ombudsmen provide direct advocacy to PACE participants in the Denver Area. There are currently 4 PACE organizations operating 10 PACE Day Centers and serving a total of 5000 PACE participant across the state.

Why did you decide to pursue your current career path?

It was not until I was an adult and my grandfather required nursing home placement that I decided that I wanted to pursue a profession where I could work with aging adults. I was interested in case management type work as well as work around grief and loss.

How has COVID-19 impacted your organization, and how are you responding to it?

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted PACE participants in how services are delivered, limiting access to services, and causing delays in communication. PACE participants have also faced increased isolation and depression during the pandemic. PACE Ombudsmen continue to provide outreach and advocacy to participants to ensure that participants needs are being met and their rights are being honored. The PACE Ombudsman Program continues to have communication with participants using technology and sending out information about the PACE Ombudsman Program via mail. PACE Ombudsman are also visiting participants that reside in nursing homes and assisted living communities.

How have your education and experiences at CSU helped you in your career?

My education and experiences at CSU had a significant impact on helping me get to my current position as the State PACE Ombudsman. The undergraduate and graduate level field work internships gave me hands on experience and opportunities to use the skill set and interview techniques that I was learning in the classroom. Internship opportunities allowed for me to get to know professionals in the community and experience working with them and making professional connections prior to graduating.

What advice do you have for students looking for a full-time job in your field?

Learn all you can in the classroom and during your field placement opportunities and be open to continued professional development for the duration of your professional career and beyond. The desire to keep learning and growing will aid you as a professional helping the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Being lifelong learners allows us to grow as individuals and helps us to remain objective and compassionate.