Understanding and accessing the many resources for senior living and elderly care can be difficult. Sometimes, ensuring a senior receives all of the care and living accommodations they need can be a task too big for family members or friends. This is when the help of a social worker might come in handy. A social worker acts as a liaison between their client and the resources they need. They can also fills in gaps when one’s care needs have surpassed those manageable by friends and family members.

But how exactly can a social worker help you or your elderly loved one, and how do you know what to look for in a social worker? In celebration of National Social Workers Month, we’ve provided you with a quick guide to best answer these questions.

Geriatric Social Workers 

The first step in picking a social worker is finding someone with the proper specialty for you or your loved one. Typically, geriatric social workers focus most on elderly clients. They are experts in issues affecting senior welfare. They also have special expertise in connecting senior clients with medical, care, and community resources. If you or your loved one are seeking a social worker to help find better resources related to senior welfare–such as physicians, daily care, or general life planning–a geriatric social worker is probably the best option. 

What to Look For

Once you’ve decided that a geriatric social worker could benefit you or a senior loved one, you’ll need to find the best social worker possible. Understanding the typical duties of a social worker will help you decide what to look for in the hiring process. As a general adviser and manager of client’s needs, both day-to-day and long-term, geriatric social workers’ typical duties include:

  • Connecting their client with community resources
  • Work with their client’s budget and financial needs
  • Advocating for their client when dealing with doctors or welfare agencies
  • Assist in filling out paperwork and forms
  • Providing emotional support and guidance for their client

Because you want to make sure you or your loved one receives a social worker that is both effective and they are comfortable with, you may want to ask them a few questions before you decide to hire them. Consider asking:

  • What resources/connections do you have readily available for your clients?
  • How often do you check in with your clients?
  • What is your style in terms of interacting with clients (i.e. personal, professional, etc.)?
  • Do you collaborate with your client’s family members when helping guide your client?

Connecting With a Social Worker

If you or your senior loved one have never had a social worker before, you might be wondering where to connect with a geriatric social worker. There are a few ways to connect with a social worker:

  • Hospitals: often times, individuals will be offered a social worker during or after a hospital stay. If you or your loved one becomes hospitalized, you might want to consider asking doctors or staff about getting a social worker. They might have an in-house social worker that will meet with you on the spot. Otherwise, they can provide you with a social worker’s contact.
  • Hospice services: similarly to hospital stays, hospice services can often connect you with a social worker. You can ask management or staff for information on geriatric social workers. 
  • Consult your county: most counties have a social services page on their website. Here, you can find resources that best suit your needs, including applications to receive a social worker. A simple google search for “[you county] social services” will likely find you the resources you need. For example, if you are in LA county, visit lacounty.gov.
  • Top websites: Other websites where you can find the proper resources and applications for social services include benefits.gov, and benefitscheckup.org. Here, you can input your zip code and go from there. 

Red Flags

In general, social workers should be there to guide their clients. Ultimately, they serve as a supportive resource through an experience that otherwise may be difficult to navigate. This means they should be open to answering all questions, hearing out all concerns, and overall take their client’s wants and needs into account. If a social worker seems to discount their client’s voice, this may be an indication that they are not the best social worker. The most important aspect of a social worker is that they are understanding, helpful, and nonjudgmental.

With geriatric social workers, it is especially important that they listen to their clients and treat them with respect. Unfortunately, elderly individuals are those most likely to have their voices discounted and unheard in our society. In looking for a geriatric social worker, look for someone who treats their elderly clients with the dignity they deserve. 

Here at New Wave Home Care, we too believe that our seniors deserve to feel heard and not like “just another client”. To learn more about our personalized and compassionate care services, visit our about us page, or contact us at (626) 466-9470.