COHME Executive Director Laura Radensky, LCSW, talks about her career in social work
By Elyse Notarianni
Social work has changed so much over the decades, but there’s one thing that remains the same — it’s some of the most valuable work someone can do, says COHME Executive Director Laura Radensky, LCSW.
Radensky, a Licensed Clinical and Geriatric Social Worker, is only the 3rd person to hold this role. Her focus on both clients’ and aides’ emotional and logistical needs stems from her more than 25 years of experience in the home health care space — much of it spent as a social worker.
Radensky always knew she wanted to work with older adults. During an internship at a care facility, so much of her work revolved solely around helping the person adjust to their new life.
“That’s when I shifted my focus to home care,” she says. “I loved that people didn’t have to uproot everything. They had the freedom to continue living their lives, just now with extra help.”
When Radensky started her career in 1989, Medicaid made it much more accessible for older adults to access the support they needed.
“Many of my clients were from quite impoverished backgrounds, and I was proud to provide referrals, find resources, offer guidance, do long-term planning, and help older adults maintain dignity while coming to terms with the loss of independence,” she says. “It’s very gratifying to provide that kind of help and compassion daily. But unfortunately, these types of services aren’t as accessible anymore.”
That’s why she felt so drawn to COHME. Despite ever-changing healthcare access or policies, COHME has maintained its commitment to social work and provides free social work services to every client.
Radensky didn’t always see herself stepping into the administrative side, but as she gradually took on new responsibilities, her career naturally lead her there. She’s found a new appreciation for the scope of her and her team’s work. “I think about how we have people helping older adults in every corner of the city,” says Radensky. “Because of COHME, there’s someone there to help.”
Because of her social work background, Radensky has a better understanding of the staff she now oversees – as well as their daily lives and challenges. “I try to bring a sense of understanding and compassion,” she says. “It can be easy to see a mistake and get upset, but I try to get to the root of every issue so we can learn to move forward.”
There’s this thought that as you get further in your career, you go to “bigger and better” positions, she says. But on her way to becoming the executive director, Radensky has learned is that nothing is “better” — it’s just different.
“My role is to make sure my staff has the resources they need to help others,” she says. “I love my job, but sometimes I do miss that one-on-one interaction. I know how hard the work is, and how much of a difference it can make in someone’s life. How could you ever say one is better than the other?”
For her, so much of the person she is today is thanks to the older adults she’s worked with along the way.
“When you start as a social worker, people always say, ‘You'll remember your first few clients.’ And it’s so true,” says Radensky. “To this day, I take the bus through Harlem or Washington Heights with my children, and I’ll sit there pointing out the window at buildings my clients lived in. Those relationships that I built were so special to me. They still are, all these years later.”