Home Mental Health & Well-Being The Role of Social Workers in Providing Better Care for Seniors

The Role of Social Workers in Providing Better Care for Seniors

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Old age brings a lot of unpleasant changes that can prove quite challenging for many to adapt to. Alongside the inevitable decline in psychological and physical health, conflicts with young family members are also common.

Fortunately, adequate care during this challenging period in life can have a tremendous positive impact and at the forefront of this are social workers who work with seniors. 

Social workers employed in old homes or residences where older adults are present can have a life-changing impact on them. 

Geriatric social workers are trained specialists who assist their clients and their family members in various dimensions, including counseling, therapeutic work, and psychological assessment. 

They assist their clients in dealing with challenges like medical conditions, family conflicts, barriers to care, etc. They have relevant experience and are knowledgeable about the concerns of the aging population. 

Following are some roles performed by geriatric social workers in caring for senior citizens in a community:

Conducting psychological assessment

Social workers working with elderly patients are responsible for conducting psychological assessments that measure their emotional, mental, social, and other needs. 

The goal is to see how these factors contribute to their physical health and develop a comprehensive care plan. Such tests assess behavioral health changes, mental health, response to treatment plans, occupational, social, family, educational history, etc. 

Like some other non traditional jobs for social workers, such as mental health work, abuse counselling, etc., senior social work involves the coordination of mental and physical healthcare services.

Through close interaction and constant monitoring, geriatric social workers know their client’s habitual behaviors and can immediately detect any alarming emotional or mental health changes. 

Constant psychological assessment allows healthcare providers to identify adverse mental or behavioral changes and risks. For instance, an evaluation can indicate suicidal ideation and alarm the healthcare workers.

Providing therapy and counseling to clients

Psychological, social, and emotional hurdles are inevitable in old age, but treatment and focused therapy can help people cope effectively with the undesirable changes that come with age. 

Social workers assist not only their clients but also their families in getting such help. The main goals behind such therapeutic interventions are to teach patients to deal with negative emotions, establish short and long-term objectives for improvement, combat psychological and physical health setbacks, etc. 

As for family members, interventions might address their problems in caring for an elderly family member. 

The client’s family is likely to suffer financial problems, relationship difficulties, sadness or guilt for the client’s condition, or grief upon the imminence of death.

Cognitive-behavioral interventions, problem-solving therapy, mindfulness, motivational interviewing, etc., are some methods used by geriatric social workers to address their clients’ problems.

Dealing with crises

Crises like suicidal desires or attempts, traumatic injuries, self-harm due to psychological disorders, and patient neglect or abuse are likely in the elderly population. 

Many elderly adults lack age-friendly assistance, suffer psychological distress, have physical impairments, or are abandoned by their families. 

In these instances, geriatric social workers are trained to intervene and assist clients and their families through the rough patch. 

They might provide emotional support, counseling, access to the authorities in case of abuse, support plan for long-term results, etc. For their clients, geriatric social workers might also coordinate volunteer services like those for suicide prevention.

Coordinating healthcare

Another responsibility of geriatric social workers is coordinating the different healthcare teams to ensure that their clients receive the best physical and psychological care. 

Care coordination involves conducting psychological assessments and informing the healthcare team about the client’s health. 

The role also involves coordinating the different healthcare providers and organizing meetings to discuss the client’s condition. 

At the same time, the social worker helps communicate the client and their family’s concerns to the healthcare providers. 

For additional support, the geriatric healthcare provider will also connect the client to community resources that ensure additional support.

Advocating for their clients

Legally, older people can face many challenges if they don’t find the right advocate. Elderly patients need a health advocate for dealing with health insurance problems, handling claims for Medicare, navigating the healthcare system, and other such tasks. 

Geriatric social workers also play a role in client advocacy to ensure their clients’ rights are not denied. 

They keep themselves up-to-date with the latest legislation concerning the aging population and protect them against abuse or neglect, like in an old-age facility.

Providing guidance

As old age approaches, individuals will likely encounter health insurance claims issues, require social security, and use community support systems. 

Not everyone is well-versed in these matters, and family members alone are insufficient regarding guidance. 

This is where social workers come in; geriatric social workers can help clients and their families deal with these concerns, guide them through the required procedures, and allow them to access the community’s benefits to the elderly.

Supporting family members  

Old age is tough not only on the individual but also on the immediate family members and the caregivers. 

The health concerns of old age, mood changes, social demands, etc., are as new to the family as they are to the client. 

Adapting to change is challenging, and geriatric social workers assist family members in overcoming this new hurdle. 

They educate caregivers and family members about ways to ensure the client’s well-being while also looking after themselves, especially when they are challenged by their loved ones’ imminent or actual death.

Settings where geriatric social workers work

Older adults who require assistance are present in various settings, from residences to hospitals and senior assistance programs. These social workers work in all facilities that look after senior citizens’ psychological and physical health. 

In inpatient and outpatient divisions for elderly patients, geriatric emergency care units, all-inclusive programs for the care of the elderly, senior assistance programs, nursing homes, residential care facilities, and hospices, geriatric social workers are needed.

Final thoughts

The aged segment of the population requires special care in physical and psychological healthcare, and geriatric social workers are one group of specialists who assist elderly clients in the process. 

These social workers administer psychological assessments, provide therapy, handle crises, guide, advocate for, and support elderly clients. These specialists get hired in various settings where elderly clients are provided care.

Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.  

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