Volunteer Spotlight: Shirley Tabb

Social worker Shirley Tabb helped pass D.C.’s Death With Dignity Act and now assists with Compassion & Choices’ dementia efforts.
February 12, 2019

A member of Compassion & Choices’ African American Leadership Council and Dementia Leadership Council, Shirley Tabb has made a career out of helping others.

She currently works for the Office of Health Care Ombudsman and Bill of Rights in Washington, D.C. Before that, for eight years she served as a Medicaid contract social worker helping seniors who wanted to “age in place;” in other words, stay at home instead of going into a nursing home. The previous 14 years were spent working with victims of child abuse and neglect for the Child and Family Services Agency as the adoption and foster parent recruitment supervisor “trying to find forever homes for children,” she explains. Shirley also produced an award-winning television program aimed at familiarizing people with Medicaid home health services.

After her father’s death, Shirley moved her mother into her home and cared for her as she struggled with mounting health issues and dementia. “That’s how I started getting really interested in long-term care,” says Shirley, who chose to work in home health after her mother’s passing. “Sometimes I have patients who are terminally ill. I was always interested in death and dying, so when I had a chance to be closer to it, I really embraced it.”

When D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced the D.C. Death With Dignity Act in 2015, Shirley got involved immediately: “I called up Councilmember Cheh’s office and said, ‘How can I assist you? Whatever I can do to help, I’d like to do it.’” Shirley met with Councilmember Cheh’s communications manager several times, who ultimately referred her to Compassion & Choices. “It’s been wonderful working with Compassion & Choices,” Shirley says. “I like being a part of something that’s so good. Going to conferences, representing at booths, speaking … I feel blessed to be a part of this organization. It provides a wonderful service to the nation.”

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