Carolyn Bogott: Wanting to make a difference

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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Did you ever wonder what happens when an older person who lives alone and has no family, can no longer cope because of declining physical and mental health? Mower County Adult Protective Services may become involved, and then they may contract with Independent Management Services for an evaluation and services, when other lesser restrictive options have been exhausted.

Judy Bjorndal

Judy Bjorndal is one of the people who may go into that situation to figure out what needs to be done. She is a case coordinator in the Guardian and Conservatorship office of Independent Management Services. Guardianship has to do with the health and safety of the person. Are they receiving the best care available? Conservatorship has to do with assets, including savings, insurance, real estate, vehicles, and household items, like antiques. It is not just older people who need these kinds of services. Younger people who cannot cope on their own due to mental or physical health or family issues may also need guardians and/or conservators.

So, Judy’s job is to care for people who need help with decisions about their care and possibly finances. She says no day is like any other. She spends time dealing very directly with clients in all kinds of intimate and sensitive situations, as well as acting as a detective to search out assets that have been forgotten or are being hidden. She must negotiate with clients and family members in all states of mind and emotion.

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One example of a very heart-wrenching situation she handles involves moving an older person with dementia out of their long-time home when they can’t understand what is happening and why. Another example is saying “no” to the request of a person with mental health challenges who wants a third try at living independently, when it seems certain that on their own, they will again quit taking their meds and will lose their job. Or Judy may have to be a part of the team that decides about surgery or ending life support.

Judy’s deep compassion and caring are evident when she describes her work. She feels it is her mission to gain the trust of her clients and to do the very best for them that she can manage. She said she tires to always listen sincerely, as everyone has the desire and right to be heard. She does her best always to tell the truth to her clients in a way that they can understand.

She is grateful to others who work with her as a team: co-workers, physicians, group home staff, county case managers and family members.

She lives with the knowledge that the many, many decisions she makes can really make a difference, good or bad, in the lives of her clients.

Besides her direct client work, Judy also handles all the court paper- work, annual accounts and responses to audits concerning those under conservatorship.

Judy’s volunteer service to the community includes 20 years of on the board of the Mower Council for the Handicapped, 12 years on the Salvation Army Board, and serving on the Austin Symphony Orchestra Board. She and her husband, Lee, periodically entertain with their music at local care facilities.

What fuels this kind, intelligent and empathetic person? She just wants to make a difference. Judy said renewal comes to her through being outside in the fresh air and exercising. Collaboration with coworkers, spending time with friends and family are her other sources of strength.

Judy’s words to live by are, “Appreciate the areas in which you are fortunate and give of your abilities to lighten the load for others.”

Our community is grateful to you, Judy Bjorndal, for caring so deeply about the less fortunate among us.

For more information about the Austin Branch of AAUW, contact Sue Grove or Carolyn Bogott The American Association of University Women, now AAUW, is open to anyone who has completed a two-year degree or beyond. AAUW welcomes men who support our objectives and there are student memberships available. AAUW has been empowering women since 1881. We support equity and education for women. Scholarships are offered, as well as help in litigation in cases dealing with sex discrimination. We are the most important and highly respected research and lobbying organization dealing with women’s issues such as equal opportunity and job equality.