Denise on The Stemwinder: It’s Still One Of The Best Kept Secrets

Home » Featured » Denise on The Stemwinder: It’s Still One Of The Best Kept Secrets

Author Interview: Part I

Denise reflects on her debut memoir, The Stemwinder: Stories of a Faithful Care Manager. She discusses the writing process, why the general public still remains largely unaware of what care managers do, and the inspiration behind her work.




Going into this project did you know what you wanted to write about? 

DV: I think initially when I made the decision to step into this territory, I wanted to write about what I do: my passion, my calling, my ministry. But I also wanted to do it in such a fashion where not only was I able to talk about my profession, I was also able to tell my story and the impact that had—how it helped me hone my skills as a care manager and social worker.


When you say ‘social worker’ people have a solid idea of what that is. Why do you think your profession isn’t as well understood?

DV: It’s funny, when I first started in the profession people would say, “oh yeah, you’re a social worker, what exactly do you do?” So I think it took many years for that profession to be defined, explained and understood. And over the last five years, especially in the United States, we’ve had social workers who’ve been killed in the line of duty. [In that context] it was in the headlines. It was a news story. And I’m still getting lots of articles that I read about a lot of the big cities hiring social workers to ride with cops especially if there’s a battery incident, a domestic battery incident, a child welfare issue, or a mental health issue. They recognize that their skill set can be very valuable to the police because they don’t have that skill set. So I think that the profession of social work has been much better understood by the world. You know, we’re not just doing charity [work] or handing out food baskets to people. But we actually have value and so care managers. So we’re coming up on 25 years on the care management association that I’m a member of. And that’s just evolved over time. We’ve rebranded, changed our name, we moved from geriatric care manager to aging life care manager. So I think that it’s still one of the best kept secrets. We still don’t do enough to promote our profession. The more statistics and news that is out there about the number of people aging, the baby boomers and the milenials, the sandwich generation now taking care of their older folks, I think that care manager is becoming more familiar to the ear. But we haven’t quire educated enough for it to become more familiar. It’s never going to become a common household word, but it needs to be as familiar as social worker, nurse, physician in the aging field.


To that end, would you say care management is ten years behind in terms of catching up with mass media and public awareness? 

DV: That’s a pretty solid number, ten years. Because when I explain and introduce myself and explain my business, I always start with licensed social worker. I’ve been practicing for x-amount of years, blah, blah, blah…This was a natural transition for me to become a care manager. This is my skill set. So, I just remember being a social worker in the early 80s and how we had to teach and educate. It was like, yeah, ok, I get what you do. So I think ten years is probably a fair number.


Was that one of the goals you wanted to achieve in writing this book? 

DV: Definitely. I wanted to educate the public. I mean, care managers are alive and well out there. Care managers can deal with the elderly, they can deal with disabled children, they can deal with disabled adults, they can deal with people with MS. So I think my book is sort of two-fold: it’s an intimate look into what a care manager does, and it’s an intimate look into what Denise does as a care manager and how I’m fulfilling my calling in doing this. And to be used as an educational tool—universities, colleges, the school of social work, the school of nursing. I’d love for med students to read this. New attorneys. Physicians. It serves as a tool for education and raising awareness about the role of a care manager and how valuable that person can be in someone’s life. And then selfishly to talk about me and to tell my story, the good, the bad and the ugly. And how it helped shaped and lead me to do the work I do now.


Not only do you have to offer guidance and services, it’s also emotionally demanding. In terms of overload, what did you rediscover about yourself as you were writing the book?

DV: That’s a loaded question. It is emotionally demanding, intellectually demanding, spiritually demanding, physically and mentally demanding. So unless you do the work you don’t get the depth of it, the intensity of it…I guess for me, it was almost an ah-hah moment, like, damn, you do all of this? Wait a minute … it’s almost like I do it everyday and I guess sometimes I don’t have time to think about it because it’s innate, but writing the book, it was a powerful reminder of how intense my work is and it was exhausting writing the book because I was reminded of how exhausting my work is.


Was there a specific client or situation that came to mind when you started out?

DV: All of them at some level. Sometimes it was the smartest client. Sometimes it was the most accomplished client that would drain me. Sometimes it was the loneliest client that would just push me to go beyond my limits for them. Go those ten extra miles. If you read my book you see the three clients that took me there; that really touched me. But all of them did in their small or large way. Sometimes not always in a nice way. When I think of my client Irene, that’s without a doubt who had the most profound impact on me at as a woman, as a daughter, as a professional, as a survivor. To be that close and personal and intimate with someone’s life, how could it not move me to tell my own story.


Would you say this book is inspired by Irene?

DV: You know, I would say that she’s the meat of this book. She was sort of like the cog that I fed off of along with my two other clients, Paul and Bella, and then me. So she really drove how the story unfolded with my other clients and myself, and how that all was weaved in together. The depth of her story was really the impetus behind it.


The Stemwinder is available on Amazon and on our Book Reviews page



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.