A career in social work can be an exciting and rewarding way to make a difference in the lives of your clients. If you love working with the elderly and want to help people in need, geriatric social work might be your calling. Geriatric social work enables you to work directly with seniors by helping them deal with practical issues and challenges, providing clinical services and conducting research to influence policies that affect older adults.
A Growing Need
The number of people reaching the age of retirement is growing at an exponential rate. In fact, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service, one in four Americans is of baby-boomer age, the highest number ever in U.S. history. This means that more and more elderly people will require the services provided by social workers, including counseling and assistance with social services benefits.
Direct-Service Social Workers
Direct-service geriatric social workers are usually bachelor's-level practitioners who aim to improve their clients' quality of life using specific social work interventions. They try to help clients solve specific problems that can affect their level of independence and well-being. They might work in state social services agencies or community organizations that specialize in working with the elderly. In these settings, direct-service social workers often provide case management services, supportive counseling, home visits and assistance with filling out forms needed to apply for social services benefits.
Long-Term-Care Social Workers
It's never easy for someone to leave their home and admit that they need help with the activities of daily living. Long-term-care social workers are usually bachelor's- or master's-level practitioners who help clients in residential settings such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They provide support, advocacy, counseling and case management to aging clients who are no longer able to live on their own. Some of the responsibilities of a long-term-care social worker include leading socialization groups, helping family members connect with needed community resources and providing counseling to help clients adjust to their new living situation.
Becoming a gerontological social work researcher might be for you if you're interested in making broad-scale, society-wide changes to help improve the lives of senior citizens. Gerontological social work researchers are usually master's- or doctoral-level clinicians. They are also often professors of social work in colleges and universities. They study a wide range of topics, such as aging and spirituality or social resources for seniors with cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. Their research often helps to educate and inform government officials and policy makers about issues relevant to the elderly. These researchers also help identify unmet needs that might be addressed by developing new programs or interventions.
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.