Life expectancy has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few decades. With an aging population, there’s an enormous need for senior care services. And in general, that means there’s more support for seniors and elderly adults living at home than ever before.
However, accessing those services is sometimes complicated without a little assistance, especially when it involves accessing government programs. That’s one of the many things that social services for elderly people can do, but the complete list is actually much longer.
What do Social Workers do for Elderly Adults?
Many people think of social workers as being responsible for defending vulnerable kids. But social workers are trained to help all kinds of people, including the elderly. And social workers for seniors are specially tasked with improving the lives of older adults. That includes a wide range of concerns related to aging.
One of the most important things a geriatric social worker does is stay apprised of local senior aid programs. That allows them to help senior clients navigate through what can sometimes be complex government bureaucracy. And that can improve senior access to a wide variety of important programs.
People become more trusting with age, which is part of the reason why seniors are much more likely to become victims of fraud. That includes a variety of Medicare scams, funeral scams, mortgage scams, telemarking scams, investment scams, prescription drug scams, and of course internet fraud.
This fraud goes underreported because people don’t know who to reach, they’re ashamed of getting scammed, or even unaware of being victimized. Social workers for elderly people are required by law to report suspected abuse and are often trained to spot it. That allows them to serve as one of the first lines of defense against fraud and other forms of elder abuse.
Social workers for seniors can do everything from examining the safety of living arrangements to helping arrange for lawn care services. From providing care for adults with dementia to keeping tabs on medication management, there’s a long list of things that senior social workers can do. But in short, for anything involving the needs of elderly people, you can probably find a social worker specialized to help.
How to Find a Social Worker for Elderly Loved Ones
You can find an elderly social worker through a local aging agency. Every state has its own agency related to the oversight of aging adults. Another option is searching through an aging life care association. Those are professional associations that allow you to search a database and directory of local social workers and other geriatric care managers.
Every state has its own area agency on aging or equivalent. These agencies can provide a variety of basic services, including things like insurance counseling, transportation assistance, care management assessments, nutritional delivery and counseling, caregiver education, and of course answer the question of how to get a social worker for the elderly.
You can learn more about regional social services for seniors by visiting the resource directory for the Department of Health & Human Services.
Reporting Concerns about an Elderly Person to Social Services
It’s important to report concerns about abuse. Most states require healthcare providers to report suspected abuse or neglect, and several states require any person who witnesses abuse to report it. If you’re concerned that someone is in immediate danger, you should contact the police immediately.
You can still contact the police about concerns that do not involve immediate danger. But in some situations, it may be advisable to first contact your local adult protective services agency or long-term care ombudsman.
So how do you contact social services for the elderly? You can reach the national Eldercare Locator by telephone at 1-800-677-1116 to refer you to local agencies that can provide assistance. Those lines are available on weekdays 9am-8pm EST.
Can Social Services Remove an Elderly Person from their Home?
In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that unnecessarily institutionalizing people with disabilities is a form of discrimination that is not permissible under the Americans with Disabilities Act. To put it bluntly, under most circumstances, social workers cannot remove an elderly person from their home.
In order to legally force a person into long-term care against their will, you need to have guardianship over that person. And obtaining guardianship without a person’s consent is possible. That’s because a county’s adult protective services can petition a court to appoint a guardian when someone becomes concerned about a person’s welfare.
This is rare because it involves a prolonged and challenging legal battle. Obtaining guardianship without someone’s consent requires establishing that a person is not capable of making sound decisions, a process that involves consulting a neuropsychologist among many other things. Only when it’s demonstrable that a person is not sound of mind is guardianship approved in this way.
Likewise, power of attorney doesn’t grant someone the authority to force an elderly person from their home. The specific authority granted by the document will depend on how it is written. But a PoA only empowers someone to oversee the legal, financial, or health interests of another person.
Help at Home for the Elderly: Social Services as a Home Care Option
Geriatric social workers have many specializations including:
- Hospice or palliative care
- Long-term care
- Elder abuse
- Family meditation
- And more
Within the context of home care, a social worker is usually tasked with helping provide for short-term medical needs. Examples include helping someone transitioning from hospital care to living at home, someone recovering from an illness, or someone with a chronic disease that needs careful management. But these experts can also serve to identify gaps between senior client’s needs and then figure out ways to fill them.
Whether working with children or working with adults, social workers are people who help identify senior problems and find workable solutions. Senior social services include big-picture concerns like following the right nutritional plan or establishing a DNR order and day-to-day concerns like medication management.
In short, just about everyone needs a little help during their golden years. And getting the help we need is often easier with elderly social services.