Living to a ripe old age is considered a good thing. But it can also a very complicated thing for senior citizens to navigate. Even if they have children or others who are actively involved in their lives, the drastic changes in health and lifestyle can be overwhelming.
There’s a saying that goes “Old age is no place for sissies.” The items on this list are enough to make the toughest character cringe:
- Retirement. While a great achievement, some people might feel lonely, bored and without a sense of purpose.
- Decline in health. Illness demands much time, energy and money.
- Loss of income. Even for those fortunate to have excellent retirement benefits, reduced income leads to changes in lifestyle and status. The cost of living usually surpasses the amount of money saved.
- Decline in physical abilities. Vision, hearing, response time become impaired. Movement can be painful, and some conditions are downright embarrassing. It’s more difficult to enjoy activities that once were sources of pleasure and fulfillment.
- Decline in mental abilities. Memory loss is common, even scary. It might take more time to process and respond to what someone said.
- Limited mobility. Even with mobile chairs and scooters, getting around can be troublesome and dangerous.
- Limited social interaction, especially for those living at home alone.
- Loss of independence. Giving up driving, depending on others for transportation, meals and basic care are difficult transitions to make.
- Depression. All the above changes often lead to a feeling of helplessness.
Geriatric social workers are people who enjoy working with older people. Their advanced education and training enables them to recognize current areas of concern and foresee future problems that can be eliminated or minimized by planning. They work with seniors, their families and healthcare providers to ensure the highest quality of life for a long as possible.
Healthcare and social services
Social workers help their clients and their families by suggesting services that may be of assistance depending on the needs of the senior. They help collect information on programs, assist with the application process, obtain answers to questions and coordinate care between various service providers. Seniors and their families who have more information and options feel empowered and healthier. Social Workers often get their degrees from the College of Arts and Sciences so they learn a lot about how to help the elderly.
No place like home?
For some seniors, remaining independent in their home becomes a dangerous scenario. Social workers professionally assess the situation and recommend options such as a companion, an assisted living facility or others that will offer the safest living environment while maintaining the most independence.
Social workers provide counseling to ease the difficulties of transition for everyone involved. They are prepared to support family caregivers with information and coordination of services including respite care. They assist with hospital admissions and discharges, counseling for end of life issues and bereavement.
Depression is a common and serious problem among the elderly and the family caregivers who are often crunched with jobs and family. Social workers recognize depression and offer counseling and therapeutic ideas to treat it and suggest ways to improve the senior’s active involvement in life.
As baby boomers age and personal and government resources shrink, geriatric social workers will become increasingly valuable resources to assist individuals, families and communities in providing the highest quality of life to our senior citizens. Geriatric social workers are employed by community agencies, hospitals, retirement centers, rehabilitation centers and hospices.