The demographic makeup of our country is changing. In fact, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to more than double by the year 2060. The United States will then be home to over 98 million accounting for 24% of our population. And age isn’t the only factor that is changing.
The composition of our older adults is also changing. Seniors are becoming more ethnically and racially diverse. Education levels are rising. A greater number of seniors are getting divorced and living alone afterward. Health conditions like Alzheimer’s, obesity and heart disease continue to climb.
It all adds up to a greater demand for geriatric social workers. Experts say that means as many as 70,000 geriatric social workers will be needed to meet the needs of aging Baby Boomers.
What are Geriatric Social Workers?
This group of professionals is dedicated to helping improve the lives of adults aged 65 and older. A geriatric social worker can help an older adult with a variety of tasks including:
- Finding and enrolling in a “meals on wheels” program to receive nutritious, home-delivered meals.
- Locating a quality in-home care provider that can provide help with the activities of daily living.
- Assisting an older adult caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s in exploring nursing home options that will offer a safe, supportive environment.
- Arranging for services such as lawn care and snow removal from trusted vendors who won’t take advantage of a senior.
- Investigating claims of elder abuse and fraud whether it is by a family member or a senior scam of some type.
- Working with a family to help an older adult living in an unsafe neighbor find an affordable senior living solution.
- Helping a senior connect with an attorney who can assist in drafting documents such as a power of attorney or a living will.
- In essence, a senior social worker is an advocate for the rights of our elders.
Geriatric Social Work Assessment
A geriatric social worker will often begin by conducting what is called a psychosocial assessment. This helps the social worker better understand what the older adult needs, whether it is therapy services to recover from an injury or mental health support to overcome grief caused by the loss of a loved one.
A few of the many factors the social worker will examine include:
- Current living arrangements
- Family or friends available for support
- Medication management
- Social activities
- Physical limitations
- Nutritional status
- Financial security
- Spiritual interests and support
- Ability to care for needs such as grocery shopping
- Medical history and personal health care needs
Once the assessment is completed, the social worker can start to connect the older adult with the services and support they need in whatever setting they call home.
How to Find a Geriatric Social Worker
There are several avenues you can take to find a geriatric social worker to help you or a senior loved one. Two of the best known are:
- Local Agency on Aging: Every state has an agency that is tasked with oversight for local offices on aging. This site will help you find the one nearest to your aging loved one.
- Aging Life Care Association: This is a professional association made up of geriatric care managers. You can search their database to find a professional near you.
We hope this information helps connect you or the senior you love with the resources needed to live a longer, healthier life!
Have you worked with a senior social worker? What other areas were they able to help you and your family with? How did a social worker make life easier for you and your older loved one?