Importance of a Social Worker

When you think of a social worker, the first image that comes to mind may be that of someone who works for the benefit of children in situations that are less than ideal. However, there are also those social workers whose field of expertise is the elderly population. 

The field of geriatric social work has continued to grow alongside the aging American population. According to a report by the Administration on Aging, people who are 65 or over made up about 12.4% of the population in 2000, and that number is expected to increase to 19% by 2030, for a total of about 72.1 million people.

The profession of social work is focused on helping individuals and families, as well as communities. A geriatric social worker, in particular, is an expert in dealing with persons aged 65 or above, and they often have a graduate-level education as well as field experience in the areas of geriatrics, gerontology, aging or social work with older persons.

They can help to address many of the issues that plague older adults and their families, as well as the many social and environmental changes that come along with getting older. So what all does that include? Let’s take a look:

They can help navigate the often confusing areas of healthcare and other social services. In particular, they can help provide clinical interventions for someone who is feeling lonely or who suffers from depression or anxiety. They may help in social interventions as well, such as being a link between clients and the many programs, both public and private, that are available to them. They also are a source of advocacy for your aging loved one. They can provide their clients with an Advanced Directive form and show them how to complete it, and they are often a first defense against elder abuse.

For any families in a care-giving situation, a geriatric social worker can be particularly helpful as they often offer direct assistance to families through family-support services, suggesting useful technologies and coordinating medical care. They also offer counseling services geared toward end-of-life issues, bereavement, or any other concerns that seniors or their families might have. They act as a go-between for elders and their families and the health care staff, and can help families keep apprised of their loved one’s conditions.

Another way they help is by working within a home care setting. Social workers specializing in this area often will work to coordinate discharge planning from the hospital to their home and to conduct home visits in order to ensure that their client is safe, happy and healthy, and living in a thriving environment. They may also tell families when home care is inappropriate for the elder, and provide help in locating assistance or transportation services or recommend technology specialized for use with in-home care.

They are also trained to be aware of and recognize any abnormal patterns in aging. They can also suggest when the elder needs to go to the doctor, and they can even arrange the appointment or visit.

By using a geriatric social worker, some elders can remain living in their own home when they otherwise would be put in a nursing home facility. If you are interested in finding a social worker, you can contact your local Agency on Aging (AAA) that can link you to services and resources in order to get you the information that you need.