Whether you’re a clinical social worker or a direct-care social worker, there are plenty of opportunities to work with the elderly. Aging seniors often face a multitude of emotional and mental challenges ranging from dementia to depression that require the assistance of a clinical social worker for counseling. And a common lack of resources and knowledge about how to tap into community assistance give direct-care social workers plenty of places where they can help.
Source of Support
A growing number of adults are moving into roles as caregivers for their aging parents. As such, they are often the ones who will contact social service agencies to find out what kinds of services they can get for mom and dad. You may be the lifeline that gets homebound parents set up with daycare services so the caregivers can go to work, or link up adult children with overnight nursing care so they can get some sleep. You’ll meet these caregivers through local agencies, veteran’s facilities, long-term care residences and mental health clinics and can serve as the most effective contact to support the caregivers.
Seniors often face a growing number of mental health issues that you, as a licensed clinical social worker may address. You might get referrals from primary care doctors to treat a senior with onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors starting to lose their loved ones and facing their own mortality often need to talk to a therapist to work through depression and acceptance of the aging process. You’ll be in the position of assessing the mental health of clients as well as treating them when they agree to one-on-one or group therapy sessions you run.
Just like social workers who investigate claims of child-abuse, you can serve the elderly by following up on reports of neglect or abuse. As a social worker, it’s your responsibility to manage a caseload that’s been referred to your agency and visit your clients on a regular basis. You’ll check the home to make sure it’s safe and secure, that the senior has sufficient heating and food and that someone is available to take the senior to doctor’s appointments and shopping. You may make referrals for assistance when needed and make sure abusive family members are reprimanded or arrested when it becomes necessary.
When you’re going through school and realize you want to specialize in geriatrics, you’ll spend time learning about the various health issues that seniors face. As a health care social worker for the elderly, it’s your responsibility to help them understand their diagnoses and how their lifestyles need to be adjusted because of their health issues. You might visit the home to make sure it’s accessible and safe to prevent slips and falls. You may serve as a liaison between doctors and their patients to explain procedures and treatments that are needed. Additionally, you need to make sure seniors understand how to manage their illnesses through diet, exercise and medication.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."