If you enjoy helping the elderly and have a passion for working with people, becoming a nursing home social worker can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice. As a nursing home social worker, you'll have the chance to work with seniors and sometimes, people disabled by mental or physical illness. Nursing home social work can give you the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of your clients and provide them with the support and social contact they might not otherwise receive.
Assessment and Planning
One of the initial tasks of a nursing home social worker involves meeting with newly-admitted clients to perform assessments. An assessment helps give you an overall picture of the client's life situation, taking into account all of the psychological, social and biological factors that may have an impact on the client's health and well-being. For example, you'll gather information about the client's family history and background, physical and mental health history and previous and current social support systems. In addition, you'll also be a member of an interdisciplinary team consisting of other health professionals. You'll discuss your assessment with the team and collaborate to come up with a treatment plan that addresses all of the client's identified needs.
Most residents of nursing homes are physically frail senior citizens with limited mobility, although some are also patients who are recovering from mental or physical illnesses. In addition, many residents lack outside social support from family members or friends, due to changes in life circumstances, illness, or even disinterest. This means that some residents may have an increased risk of social isolation and developing mental health disorders like depression. One way that a nursing home social worker provides assistance is through supportive counseling and social support. Making the transition from independent living to supported living can be extremely difficult. Social workers help their clients make this adjustment, taking into account social, psychological and emotional needs. If family members are involved, you might also provide supportive counseling to help them cope with and adjust to the changes in their loved one's life.
Many times, a nursing home social worker is responsible for leading group therapy sessions for residents. The topics of the therapy sessions may vary, but usually focus on adjustment, support, socialization, stimulation, understanding and information. For example, you might lead informal coffee groups that involve discussions about different topics, like movies, art or other topics of general interest, or help new residents acclimate to life in the nursing home by leading adjustment groups. Sometimes, you might be asked to come up with new group topics to help provide a stimulating and nurturing environment for the residents.
As with any other social work job, you'll also have to perform administrative duties. In addition to completing assessments and treatment plans, your additional administrative responsibilities might range from maintaining case files, completing individual and group counseling notes, compiling and updating referral lists, participating in quality assurance meetings or team support meetings and staying up-to-date with changes to governmental regulations regarding nursing home policies.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.