Social workers focus on people, families and communities in need. They teach people new skills and introduce them to resources to help them live effective and meaningful lives. They may also act as advocates for people who cannot do this on their own, such as seniors with cognitive impairment. Geriatric social workers, in particular, focus on adults age 65 and up and are comfortable with the physical, mental and emotional challenges they may face.
Let’s examine the ways that social workers impact senior care so that you know what to expect for yourself or a loved one.
One of the most important roles of a social worker is to advocate on behalf of their clients. Social workers may fill out important documents, arrange for living wills and finalize do-not-resuscitate orders. Older adults are encouraged to have these discussions as early as possible, when they are able to communicate their preferences.
There are many confusing aspects to growing older, and healthcare is one of them. Geriatric social workers help seniors and their families navigate the healthcare system. They are happy to suggest free or discounted programs and resources in the area, such as blood pressure checks, dental care, medical alert systems or seasonal flu shots.
It’s common for social workers to offer counseling services to their clients. Seniors face difficult experiences such as losing loved ones or suffering from chronic health conditions. Social workers sometimes provide counseling for bereavement or end-of-life issues and can assist with transitioning an elder to assisted living.
If a senior goes into the hospital for surgery, a social worker can serve as a liaison between the doctors and the family. This way, close family members are kept up to date about their loved one’s condition so they can prepare accordingly. Social workers can also coordinate where the person will stay when they are discharged and what home care services may need to be utilized.
As you can see, social workers serve important roles for seniors and their families. If you feel that you or a loved one can benefit from the services of a social worker, speak with the doctor or senior center for a recommendation.