How Social Workers Revolutionize Senior Care

Julia Little  |  March 27, 2014

Chances are that if you have been exposed to senior care to any extent - whether you are a caregiver, a family member or a senior yourself - you have probably interacted with a social worker. The question is, though, do you really know what that person does? Because March marks Social Workers' Month, now is the perfect time to explore exactly what these helpful professionals accomplish on a day-to-day basis so that we can understand just how valuable they are when it comes to keeping senior living running like clockwork.

Simply by hearing the phrase "social work," you can imagine the expansive range of responsibilities that people in this field have. While this generic term can apply to professionals working in a variety of settings, such as schools and even government agencies, geriatric social workers specifically deal with ensuring someone's senior care works in the best way possible for him or her. Because there are so many components that need to be sorted out at every stage of senior living, social workers have to juggle a number of different tasks to make this guarantee.

Assisting seniors themselves
A geriatric social worker has to sort out all of the details of a patient's care, taking into account the physical, mental and even logistical factors that play a role in deciding the nature of a person's immediate and future needs. 

The Consortium of New York Geriatric Education Centers explained in an industry journal that, "gerontological social work interventions are directed at enhancing dignity, self-determination, personal fulfillment, quality of life, optimal functioning and ensuring the least restrictive living environment possible."

To accomplish these tasks, social workers intervene in numerous ways. For starters, they can examine the social needs of a senior. By determining the type of mental stimulation and interaction that would best suit a person, they can then make arrangements for them to join groups and organizations, participate in activities and go on outings that would all improve their quality of life and suit their personal preferences. This includes counseling sessions, which could help them speak with professionals about issues commonly associated with seniors, including helping them come to surpassing end-of-life emotional hurdles.   

In addition, these professionals can provide guidance in terms of the public and private services for which individuals are eligible. They can then walk seniors through the process of completing the necessary forms, providing guidance every step of the way so that these individuals can obtain all the extra assistance to which they are entitled. Not to mention, social workers are able to advocate for seniors' rights and step in whenever there are indications of elder abuse, working in conjunction with Adult Protective Services to be certain that their care is of the utmost quality.

Lending a helping hand to loved ones
Social workers also recognize that seniors are not alone when it comes to their care, as there are many loved ones who are actively involved. By sitting down with social workers, family members can tap into a wealth of information with regards to the supportive services and programs from which they would benefit. These professionals can help them take care of paperwork, including documents such as living wills and DNR orders, as well as assist loved ones with a seamless switch to long-term care provided by assisted living communities. 

Social workers act as mediators among seniors, their families and health care professionals. They keep everyone on the same page, fostering clear and consistent communication. In the end, they can establish a plan that will work for each individual's care and keep everything on track. 

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