Geriatric Social Work: Skills Needed to Effectively Work with the Elderly

Geriatric social workers are highly educated and specially-trained professionals who ensure that the physical, psychological, and social needs of older individuals are being met.
Geriatric Social Worker Skills
In most instances, “older” is classified as anyone 65 years of age or above; however, there are many situations in which geriatric social workers work with individuals that are younger. Examples include those who are diagnosed with early onset dementias, individuals who have suffered from a severe vascular event at a relatively young age, and others who have a disability that generally affects aging populations prior to turning 65. In this guide, you will learn about geriatric social workers and the skills that are required for these professionals to work effectively with older people.

Geriatric Social Work

To understand the skills required for geriatric social workers, it is first important to have a solid understanding of this branch of social work. As a person ages, their needs change. As a result, complications may arise in their lives. Geriatric-based social work was designed to assist aging populations with those changes and complications. Examples of the areas where a geriatric social worker may play a role include the following:
  • Helping an elderly person discover employment opportunities, if they are able to continue working.
  • If they are not able to work, helping older adults research alternative income opportunities – such as disability or retirement – and helping that person adjust to living on a lower, fixed income.
  • Assisting individuals that have medical problems in finding treatment and applying for benefits that will help cover the costs associated with medical care.
  • Helping aging populations with psychological issues – such as dealing with the loss of loved ones and the onset of depression.
  • Identifying social issues – such as not interacting in social activities and loneliness – and helping to resolve those issues.

Why Are Geriatric Social Workers Needed?

The Administration on Aging has conducted many studies on aging populations. One such study outlined that in the year of 1980, the number of people considered to be “older” and in need of assistance was 378 million. By the year of 2010, this number jumped to 759 million. This number is expected to continually increase as a result in advances in technology and medical care. Life expectancies are higher, which means there is a great need for people who specialize in working with older people.

What are the Responsibilities of the Geriatric Social Worker?

While the main priority of the geriatric social worker is to ensure that the needs of the older adult are meet, these professionals have a wide range of responsibilities. Not only to the clients that they serve, but to their families and the communities in which aging populations reside. The following outlines the main responsibilities of this professional:
  1. The first responsibility of a social worker that specializes in elder assistance and care is to conduct an assessment of the individual to determine their unique needs.
  2. Interviews may be conducted with family members, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to gain an understanding of the person’s physical and psychological needs.
  3. Medical records may be reviewed in order to determine what health issues need to be considered and/or addressed when creating a custom plan to help the older client.
  4. If the older patient resides in their own home, the social worker may visit the home to ensure that it is safe and they have access to that which they require.
  5. If financial complications are occurring, the geriatric social worker will help their client apply for assistance, programs, and/or help them discover employment that they may perform.
  6. If the social worker feels that their client suffers from a psychological or emotional problem, they will assist in referrals for counseling, therapy, and other types of services.
  7. Geriatric social workers are trained in recognizing the signs of abuse and neglect in the elderly. If the professional discovers these issues are occurring, they will remove their client from danger and ensure the placement into a safe environment.
  8. Social workers who work with the elderly will meet with them periodically to determine if they have additional needs that need to be met. If so, they will handle that.

What Skills Are Needed to be a Geriatric Social Worker?

There are a variety of skills that geriatric social workers should possess. The following outlines the main ones:
  • The individual should have comprehensive knowledge of the ethics and laws surrounding elder care, services, and treatments of aging populations.
  • The social worker must have optimal skills in advocating for their client.
  • The individual must be thoroughly trained and highly skilled in case management.
  • A geriatric social worker should be skilled in knowing the signs of abuse and neglect in the elderly, the laws surrounding these circumstances, and how to ensure the safe removal and placement of individuals abused and/or neglected.
  • The professional should have skills in risk assessment and safety evaluation.
  • Social workers that work closely with the elderly must have strong skills and knowledge in the delivery processes associated with the healthcare system.
  • These professionals know about all available social services, assistance programs, and other types of agencies that help with those that are part of aging populations.
  • Geriatric social workers are excellent communicators that can develop rapport quickly and be trusted to act in the best interest of their clients.
  • Individuals that work with the aging in social work are highly compassionate and empathetic.
  • Geriatric social workers display a high level of patience and perseverance.
  • These professionals know about home health care services, assisted living placement, and skilled nursing homes.

Elderly Care

We here at Beacon Senior Advisors specialize in the care of today’s elderly. Whether you are concerned about a loved one’s safety, mental health, or general well-being, we can help you. If you feel as if you need to learn more or are in need of a geriatric social worker, we provide the tools, resources, and skills to ensure the well-being of all older adults. If you would like to learn more about our services, have a desire to connect to an advisor, or obtain a geriatric social worker for an older adult, simply contact us today by calling: 973-713-0096

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