Five Ways Social Workers Support Elderly Individuals and Their Families

Social workers and care coordinators are instrumental in assisting families of older adults navigate the complexities of long-term care and health issues. They provide essential guidance, resources, and support to ensure seniors receive the care they need while maintaining the highest possible quality of life.

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Five Ways Social Workers Support Elderly Individuals and Their Families
5 Min Read February 11th, 2024

Caring for an older family member facing the challenges of aging can be a source of significant stress for families. As aging brings about various health issues, mobility limitations, and often, the need for constant long-term care, families may find themselves navigating unfamiliar territory, trying to balance the emotional, physical, and financial demands of caregiving. 

Families are often the source of caregiving when Long-Ternm Care Insurance is not in place. The National Center for Caregiving (NCC) reports that 41.5 million adults in the U.S. provided unpaid care to an older adult in 2023, highlighting the vast need for professional support.

The complexity of managing medical appointments, home care needs, and the potential transition to assisted living or nursing homes can be overwhelming. This stress is compounded by the desire to ensure that their loved one receives compassionate, competent care while maintaining their dignity and quality of life.

Help is Available

In these challenging times, social workers, including case managers, emerge as invaluable resources for families. With their expertise in navigating the health system and their understanding of the needs of the elderly, they can offer guidance, support, and practical solutions that ease the burden on families. 

Case managers assess the needs of older individuals and work with families to develop a comprehensive care plan. They can connect families with essential services, from in-home care providers to suitable assisted living facilities, and help secure financial assistance or benefits from Long-Term Care Insurance, Medicare, or, for those who qualify, Medicaid, which can offset the cost of care. 

Dr. Stephanie Nothelle, a geriatrician and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, noted in an interview on NPR that while hospitals and medical practices employ care managers, these professionals frequently face high patient loads. According to Nothelle, private-pay professionals, who serve clients directly, can often provide more effective support due to their focused approach.

By acting as advocates for the elderly and their families, social workers play a critical role in managing the complexities of aging, providing families with peace of mind and the support needed to make informed decisions about their loved one's care.

Specialized Skills

Social workers caring for older adults have specialized knowledge and are known as gerontology or geriatric social workers. Aging comes with many challenges that can be hard to navigate. This is where social workers come in. They assist you and your senior loved one in addressing the difficulties associated with the aging process, promoting independence, dignity, and autonomy later in their lives. Below are five ways social workers can help you and your elderly loved ones.

Care Coordination

Social workers can help you and your senior loved one with care coordination, which involves purposefully organizing various services and teams to effectively address an older adult's overall care needs, including:

  • Cognitive
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Emotional

Care coordination includes completing psychosocial evaluations to inform the entire care team of a senior's needs. It also involves facilitating or taking part in meetings between various care providers to talk about health and treatment outcomes and communicating the desires and concerns of a patient and their loved ones to the team in charge of their care. 

Besides having specialized knowledge acquired through online MSW programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, a dependable social worker should be passionate about working with and for the elderly.

Guidance Through Long-Term Care Admission

When older adults transition to long-term care, they're cared for by a multi-disciplinary team, including dieticians, therapists, and nurses. Your geriatric social worker can help evaluate your loved one's needs and team up with the care team to develop a personalized care plan. 

Navigating the health system can be daunting. Social workers assist in coordinating care among different health providers, managing medications, and understanding medical conditions. This coordination helps prevent health issues from escalating, allowing older adults to manage their health more effectively and maintain their independence.

The social worker can also sit with you and respond to any queries you may have regarding your elderly loved one's care while providing details on things like financial planning, making a claim for Long-Term Care Insurance, and for those with little or no income and assets qualifying for Medicaid benefits. If you have any legal questions, a knowledgeable social worker will answer basic questions and provide the necessary resources to learn more.

Therapy and Counseling

Social workers offer therapy and counseling services to older adults to help them deal with emotional, psychological, financial, and social challenges associated with aging. Additionally, provide advice and therapy to a senior's family and loved ones as needed. Social workers can use various psychotherapeutic tactics during sessions with your elderly loved one to help them:

  • Set life improvement objectives
  • Manage negative emotions
  • Address psychological barriers or behavioral issues to attaining specific goals
  • Prepare for end-of-life

When working with you, social workers can help you manage the challenges you may encounter caring for a senior loved one, such as strains on relationships/ financial resources and processing the feelings around loss.

Prevent Loneliness and Social Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation have devastating effects on a senior's overall health. These conditions are linked to higher risks for various mental and physical diseases, including:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • A weak immune system
  • Cognitive decline
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Death

Recognizing that social isolation can impact independence and well-being, social workers facilitate connections to social activities, support groups, and volunteer opportunities. This not only enriches the lives of older adults but also encourages a sense of community and belonging.

Social workers will help older adults find ways to establish a support network of family and friends and remain connected with their communities.

Help Seniors Maintain Independence

A survey found that 77% of seniors want to stay in their homes for the long term. Social workers can advise older adults on the assistive devices and home modifications that can help them remain independent for as long as possible.

Take Advantage of the Help

Too often, families will not take advantage of available services and attempt to do everything independently. Going alone is not beneficial to the older adult or the family. 

Qualified care coordinators and social workers will help develop an appropriate plan of care, find qualified caregivers and facilities, and even work with Long-Term Care Insurance to make the process easier. The role eases the stress otherwise placed on family members. Many LTC policies will pay for this service. 

By addressing the holistic needs of older adults, social workers, and care coordinators ensure that the necessary support structures are in place for them to live as independently as possible, even when facing the challenges of aging and the need for long-term care.

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About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell

Linda Maxwell

Contributor since December 11th, 2017

Editor's Note

Getting ready for long-term care is critical to ensuring you have a good life as you age. Aging often means you might need extra help with everyday things or someone to look after you if you have memory problems. If you have a long-term care plan, it will help lower stress and make things less uncertain. This way, you get to decide what kind of care you want and where you want to get it, including at home.

Having Long-Term Care Insurance is a big part of getting ready. It protects your money from the high costs of long-term care. With an LTC policy, your savings and income are safe, and you won't have to use them to pay for the care you need.

An LTC policy lets you get the care you need without worrying about the cost, whether it's help at home, adult day care, living in a place that offers assisted care, or a nursing home.

Long-Term Care Insurance also helps your family. Most policies include case management, so you have professional help in finding care and developing a care plan, reducing the stress on your family. They won't have to be the ones to give you all the care you need, which can be hard on their health and happiness. Instead, they can just be there for you as family, supporting you without the stress of being your caregivers.

Most people get coverage in their 40s or 50s. However, if you are in your 60s or older, there are affordable options depending on your level of health.

Maximizing Long-Term Care Insurance Benefits with an Independent Specialist

Working with a qualified independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist can significantly simplify finding affordable coverage. These specialists possess a deep understanding of Long-Term Care Insurance options, underwriting, tax benefits, and pricing of all the top-rated insurance companies. 

An LTC Insurance specialist will match your age, health status, and other factors—to identify the most suitable and affordable coverage options for you. Their expertise ensures that you're presented with accurate quotes from all the top insurance companies so you can make an appropriate choice. 

An independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist operates with your best interests in mind, free from the constraints of being tied to any single insurance provider. They can also navigate the application process, helping to manage any potential underlying health issues, which can be particularly beneficial if you have pre-existing health conditions. 

Moreover, working with a specialist saves you time and effort. They handle the legwork of researching and comparing policies, offering affordable policy design, decoding insurance jargon into understandable terms, and answering any questions. 

Simplifying the Search for High-Quality Long-Term Care 

If your parents or other loved ones are declining and they soon will need long-term care, or you are unhappy with care providers they have no, finding quality care options can be daunting. 

Don't let the stress of finding high-quality long-term care services for a loved one make life difficult. Your loved ones deserve quality care, and many options exist, including in-home care, adult day care, assisted living, memory care, and nursing home services. 

The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory provides help by allowing you to browse through more than 80,000 care providers. This free, extensive national database covers a broad spectrum of long-term care services, making locating qualified caregivers or suitable care facilities easier. You can search for providers in your or your loved one's area while learning about their qualifications and available services.

If your loved one has an LTC Insurance policy, the benefits open the door to many quality care options. LTC NEWS can help process claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. LTC NEWS, in partnership with Amada Senior Care, a nationally recognized in-home health care agency, ensures that you and your loved ones receive the quality care you deserve. This service comes at no cost or obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

These four LTC NEWS guides will assist you in trying to find appropriate long-term services for a loved one:

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