Gerontological social workers, also known as geriatric social workers, coordinate the care of older patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals, community health clinics, long-term and residential health care facilities, hospice settings, and outpatient/daytime health care centers. They also may work with caregivers and families to facilitate communication and coordination of care among all members of the patient’s healthcare team and help families cope emotionally with the illness and the changes in their elder family member’s life and personality.
In outpatient settings, geriatric social workers are advocates for the older adults they serve while helping them access community resources such as housing and transportation services necessary for them to live independently in their homes for as long as possible following discharge from medical care or communities of independent living for seniors. They ensure seniors receive the mental, emotional, social and familial support they need as they undergo treatment and complex medical treatments to stabilize their medical conditions and prevent future complications.
Those who work in geriatric social work help their clients manage psychological, emotional and social challenges by providing counseling and therapy, advising clients’ families about how to best support aging loved ones and directing in-home care for elderly individuals. Geriatric social workers may earn certificates from nursing schools or bachelor’s or master’s degrees from gerontology programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education or the Gerontological Society of America respectively.
Remaining true to social work values in which older adults are treated as agents rather than problems, social work professionals who understand aging recognize and promote the capability of older persons to remain productive and less dependent in later life through counseling and advocacy for social change geared towards improving access to appropriate health care and supportive services as well as increasing the quality of education that prepares today’s workforce for the future demands of caring for an aging population.