Smiling Social Workers

National Social Work Month was first organized in March of 1963 by the National Association of Social Workers as a way to encourage public support for the profession. The theme for National Social Work Month 2022 is “Social Workers Are Essential”. What more perfect timing could there be to describe the contributions social workers make to address personal and systemic barriers to optimal living.

The changes social workers seek to create can be within individuals, families, groups and/or entire communities. According to the National Association of Social Workers, social work is “a profession devoted to helping people function the best they can in their environment”. The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes the profession by saying “Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.”

Social work is based on seven core principles, these include:

  • purposeful expression of feelings
  • controlled emotional involvement
  • acceptance
  • individualization
  • non-judgmental attitude
  • client self-determination
  • confidentiality

“The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity.” ‒ Jackie Robinson

Geriatric social work focuses on elderly clients and their families: assessing your situations and needs, determining problems and offering solutions, and helping to implement those solutions if they work for you. Geriatric social workers may be focused on helping you or your loved one maintain the maximum amount of independence possible. They work for your right to make your own decisions and your self-determination in doing so. When you or your family is having difficulty resolving conflict and resistance or difficulty resolving physical, emotional and safety concerns, it may be a good time to work with a social worker.

A geriatric social worker is familiar with the aging process, as well as with community resources. They may be an excellent resource in determining if the loss of a skill is a typical symptom of aging or may be symptomatic of a greater set of needs.

A social worker keeps your interests at the forefront, looking to impose the least amount of life restrictions for the least amount of cost. A social worker may be able to identify and set in place financial resources to help you cover the cost of appropriate assistance. This includes assistance in applying for Medicaid, Medicaid waiver programs and long-term insurance policies.

Elder working on a podcast

“Wrinkles will only go where the smiles have been” – Jimmy Buffet

Growing old is not for the faint of heart. In the process, you may feel as though everything is changing and being taken away. Your ability to care for yourself and your sense of independence are not only emotional losses, but physical losses as well. Losing your spouse and your home make your happy and carefree years feel like a different life time. While the assistance of a social worker can help seniors who live independently (and their families) as they navigate increasingly challenging circumstances, many assisted living, nursing home and memory care facilities employ social workers for the same reasons. In these environments, social workers not only help new residents and their families adjust, but also evaluate the seniors’ psychosocial, mental and emotional needs while developing a plan to meet those needs. (Psychosocial needs are the intersection of social behavior and individual thoughts and behaviors.) This may involve some level of psychological counseling, as well. Additionally, in a residential setting, social workers can advise your family about how to best support you as you age. Above all, a social worker may be your best ally in maintaining dignity through all of the challenging adjustments that come with aging.

Current social work challenges

It is not hard to agree that the past two years have seen worldwide challenges that few of us could have predicted. Social workers being seen as essential, like the theme of this year’s social work awareness month, has taken on somewhat of a new definition. Among the challenges that social workers are currently facing is Covid-19 recovery (including care for those with long-term symptoms and family concerns about isolation from loved ones). Other contemporary challenges are: supporting the essential social work workforce; eliminating systemic racism, ensuring access to health care, mental health care and behavioral health care services; addressing economic inequality; preventing violence; and reforming criminal justice. You may recognize that these challenges mirror the issues we hear about in our everyday lives, showing the importance of social work efforts in our greater communities.

The difficult conversations that families face when choosing appropriate levels of care and assistance for their senior loved ones can be frightening and emotionally charged. It can be difficult to trust that your own best interests are being kept in mind when changes need to happen quickly. And, of course, it can feel like there is no where to turn for honest, supportive and helpful information about options and resources. If your family finds themselves feeling similarly, consider reaching out to a local social worker, either through your county agency on aging, at local assisted living care facilities, or through Aging at 5280. May the guidance you receive help to maintain your dignity and help you create new wrinkles in all the right places!

Sources: National Association of Social Workers | Geriatric Social Workers | National Association of Social Workers – California

If you, a family member or friends are in need of support for healthy aging, contact us, we are here to guide you in navigating your roadmap to aging well.

Cindy Koch

Cindy Koch, MA

Certified Placement & Referral Specialist (CPRS) | Owner

Aging at 5280 is here to help elders and their families navigate through the healthcare system and customize a plan to meet their needs.