This a guest post by Trent Kim.
Advancing age in itself is not a problem. There is no illness called “old age.” Yet, the need for social services to cater to the senior citizen population is increasing and is expected to grow over the next several years as baby boomers begin to age.
Some people might think that the elderly do not need much. All that is needed is to give them enough food to last until the next time they get hungry, position them in front of a television set or near a radio, and that is it. People could not be more wrong. The needs of the elderly population are as complex as any age group, and maybe even more so.
So what is it about the elderly that calls for interventions by social workers? Here are a few reasons why our society’s grandparents may need social services.
Abuse of the Elderly
According to a research done in New Zealand, in 2007 alone, there were approximately 4,766 cases of suspected abuse of senior citizen, neglect, and even financial exploitation. Unfortunately, 19 incidents of these were connected to a death, and a sum of 303 were considered life-threatening. Appalled yet? Remember, those figures do not cover the number of occurrences in the entire world.
A suspected case of elder abuse gets called in to a social worker. This geriatric social worker will then collect more data by conducting interviews, and will then determine if abuse has actually taken place by participating in an investigation. This process might include taking it to court to obtain a restraining order and keeping the elder in a temporary but safe place. A geriatric specialist social worker has the training to identify signs of abuse and skills in interviewing and talking to people who are suspected to be victims of physical and verbal abuse.
Increased Occurrence of Medical Conditions
Let’s face it. As most people grow older, they may develop a myriad of medical illnesses. The body becomes weaker, loses resistance to sickness, and a number of medical conditions dare to ravage the human body that used to be so fit and healthy.
Despite social security assistance and the financial support of family members, the aged members of our society still struggle to make ends meet, what with all the maintenance medications that ensure day-to-day healthy functioning.
Geriatric social workers may make things easier by helping senior citizens get what they need such as home care assistance, special modes of transportation, or any other similar needs. Social workers can also authorize the employment of in-home assistants to help senior citizens who need assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and eating. With the help of such services, some elderly people may have the choice of living in their own homes, when otherwise they would need to be admitted in a nursing care home.
Some senior citizens are quite lonely, especially those without close family nearby. They might also have lost their friends, co-workers, and sadly, even their family members may have abandoned them. Some also have health problems that interfere with their ability to interact socially.
Geriatric social workers help the elderly deal with problems such as these. Aside from just hearing out what their clients have to say, social workers can also encourage them to participate in group activities. Many social workers have the skills to lead these activities or arrange for others to be the leader. Some social workers have a basic knowledge in mental health, and may offer therapeutic sessions for clients suffering from depression or anxiety. Most act as a link between their clients and the countless programs designed for the aging.
Our elders need caring for more than we think. They need someone to speak out for them at times, someone to advocate their needs, and someone to take the time to listen. All of that, and more, can be found in the most selfless people around – the social workers.
Author Bio: Trent Kim is a professional in the social services industry. He now owns a site, SocialWorkerData.com, which is a site dedicated to helping people find a career path in social services.
Image Credit: Courtesy of AntonioMancusi via Flickr