Each March Social Work Month is celebrated, which creates the opportunity to shed some light onto the Social Work profession. I am a Geriatric Social Worker. When I began my graduate career in Social Work, I never dreamed I would work with older adults. In my undergraduate work, I had interned at a school for special needs children and worked as a respite caregiver for Easter Seals with a five year-old boy with Down Syndrome. I thought I was going to work with children. When I graduated with my Master’s, I had a broad array of experience dealing with older adults in the court system for guardianship, but this also included many other populations. I have worked as a nursing home social worker and am now in home care. Most people do not realize how much difference a Social Worker can make in general, let alone in the geriatric field.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics estimates there will be 72 million older adults by the year 2030, which will account for 20 percent of the population (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2012. http://www.agingstats.gov.) Thus, the role of social workers in geriatrics is of ever-growing importance.

If social workers are so important, what is it that they do? Social workers by nature are advocates. We will advocate for our client to have the best quality of life and navigate them to resources in order to do this. (Health works collective. What does a geriatric social worker do? July 19, 2012 http://healthworkscollective.com/ecaring/38836/what-does-geriatric-social-worker-do) One of the services that a social worker can offer are clinical interventions such as providing therapy or crisis intervention. Older adults often face multiple issues such as depression, anxiety, handling the deaths of loved ones, dealing with loss associated with change of lifestyle, thoughts of mortality, etc. Social workers also help find resources and help clients apply for the correct services. Social workers guard against elder abuse and are mandated reporters to the state. They also help older adults create documents that show what is wanted if the person were not able to voice their desires at the time, such as Medical Power of Attorneys or Do Not Resuscitate Orders.

I am proud to be a Geriatric Social worker. One thing that is great about it is that I am never bored. The best part of it is that I am grateful to have been able to be a part of other people’s lives. I appreciate that they have shared their journey with me and have allowed me to be part of it. I have loved them and cared for them, listened when there were no words to say, cried with them, and prayed with them.

There may come a time when someone with this kind of expertise is needed. A place to start is your local Area Agency on Aging. This agency specializes in resources for older adults. Find your local AAA here. Another way to find help is to look for a local Geriatric Care Manager. Geriatric Care Managers are not all Social Workers, but they are specialists who can guide those searching for help with disabled or older adults. Their website is: http://memberfinder.caremanager.org/. Your doctor may also be able to recommend a geriatric social worker he or she has worked with, as well as the local senior center. Ultimately, a Geriatric Social Worker can help older adults access more resources, perhaps avoiding a move to a nursing facility. With their help, what might otherwise be a humiliating process becomes graceful and dignified.

~Written by Elizabeth Madrigal, LMSW, Geriatric Care Manager who works for Agape Home Care with Michele Orshal, RN, CMC. Elizabeth has experience working with older adults as a nursing home social worker and now a Geriatric Care Manager. She is currently under supervision to obtain her licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Older Americans 2012: Key Indicators of Well-Being. Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2012. http://www.agingstats.gov.
Wilding, M. (2012, July 19). What does a Geriatric Social Worker do? Health works collective. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from http://healthworkscollective.com/ecaring/38836/what-does-geriatric-social-worker-do