If you or someone you love requires rehab services after a hospital stay or skilled nursing services or a safe and congenial memory care community, you will probably depend on the expert advice of a licensed social worker.
Geriatric social workers are in demand, thanks to the burgeoning over-65 population. That age group, which numbered 47.8 million in 2015, is expected to grow to more than 98 million by 2060. Meanwhile, the population of people 85 or older is projected to almost double to 21.1 million in 2030 from 10.6 million in 2015.
It’s no surprise then that the 650,000 social workers who work in the U.S are essential to the welfare of senior citizens who rely on their expertise and sensitivity. National Social Work Month, which is sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and is observed every March, acknowledges their invaluable contributions.
The aim of the annual observance is to encourage awareness of the important work social workers and their impact on the people they serve. The theme of the 2018 National Social Workers Month is “Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions”—all of which “make our society a better place to live,”according to the NASW.
Social workers fulfill many key functions within senior communities. They perform psychosocial assessments of new nursing home residents and counsel assisted living residents who need help adjusting to their new environment.
Social workers also are on the front lines advocating for their clients’ needs, developing care plans, and counseling and educating both clients and staff. Geriatric social workers are skilled at establishing a rapport with their clients and assessing needs, advocating for their clients, organizing social activities, and helping clients live the best life possible within their physical capabilities.
Social workers like Corrine Bellafiore, Antonella Coniglio and Nikki Weydert of The Springs at Monarch Landing, which opened in 2014 to provide residents with a continuum of care, make every effort to ensure their clients get access to therapeutic interventions and other treatments and resources they need. “I work closely with our guests and their families from the time they come to The Springs to planning a safe discharge back home or alternative locations,” said Coniglio, social service coordinator of The Springs, which offers skilled care, short- and long-term rehabilitation, and memory assisted living.
“I take pride in learning the individual needs of our rehab guests and communicating those needs to the appropriate party including our guests, family, home health, doctor, caregiver agencies or residence in the community,” she said.
Social workers who work with geriatric patients are skilled at collaborating with patients, family members and other health care professionals to ensure the best possible care for their elderly patients. It’s important for clients to be honest and straight-forward in order to enable the social worker to find the best solutions possible. Remember: social workers are trained to be non-judgmental and to focus on solving their clients’ problems.
Several observances are planned this month to recognize the contribution of social workers to the national welfare, including a Social Work Talks podcast series, public service announcement on television, and an online toolkit that will highlight the positive impact of social workers.
But maybe the best observance possible is simply to recognize the key role social workers play in ensuring their clients can access the best of the resources available to them.