MSWs and Aging America: A Look at Social Workers in Care Management

March is National Social Work Month and Sound Options is looking at the ways Masters of Social Work are contributing their skills to the world of eldercare through the field of Professional Geriatric Care Management (GCM).

When we imagine the healthcare world, often needs can be compartmentalized with physical needs in one compartment, environmental housing needs in another, financial needs here, and mental/psychological need over there and so on. Professionals and specialists focus their attention on their area of expertise and tend to work separated from the whole web of needs. As individuals, we are much more blended than our care. Much like the body, we separate out the different parts and functions to talk about them and find specialized help in that area, but we must remember that the body always operates as a whole, just like our needs.

Social Workers in the Field of Care Management

Generally speaking, Care Managers specialize in the care of aging adults and vulnerable individuals with chronic illness or disability. Professional Care Managers come to the profession from a variety of educational backgrounds including: social work, nursing, psychology, gerontology, etc. What they have in common is the ability to manage the details of caring for a life without losing sight of the whole big picture. They refuse to compartmentalize care. 

One of the reasons social workers make such effective leaders on care teams and guides to families is their ability to navigate many settings and simultaneous needs such as:

  • Financial
  • Health and well-being
  • Mental health/ psychology
  • Physical health/ medical care
  • Social connections
  • Family/ community dynamics
  • Daily living needs in the home
  • Religious/ spiritual meaning
  • End-of-life care
  • Benefits and insurance

Care Managers understand well-being is complex and always involves more than one thing. Social workers occupy many fields including working in hospitals and care facilities as advocates, discharge planners, etc. As Geriatric Care Managers, social workers are helping revolutionize the way we think about eldercare. In the words of Care Manager, Beth Eagen, MSW from Sound Options, “I strongly believe that we should have the choice in how and where we want to live and age. I take a very integrated approach to healthcare by accessing and utilizing all community resources available for my clients.”  

Trends Impacting Eldercare 

Current and previous models of eldercare included the family as the hub of care needs for aging adults, more specifically the women in the family. However, changing social trends are converging to create a fever-pitch crises of care in the American family and society: 

  1. We are living longer than ever with expected 20-30 years past retirement age
  2. Complicated diseases and chronic illness increase with age
  3. Women are in the workplace and often primary bread winners
  4. Women are still often the primary caregivers of aging parents and children
  5. Baby boomers are turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day and will for the next 19 years.

A New Model of Care 

The 2015 theme for National Social Work Month is "Social Work Paves the Way for Change", and MSW Care Managers are certainly making that a reality in eldercare. This is where Care Managers step in to relieve the building pressure for families to “do-it-all” and still maintain their own lives. As specialists in the care of aging adults, they help families navigate the care and logistical challenges of aging and operate from the premise that eldercare is a family affair.

In fact, MSW Care Managers are also adept at mediating family dynamics and helping families have the difficult conversations about care needs, finances, the legal aspects of aging, and end-of-life care. By providing them with good information while creating a safe and empathetic space for candid dialogue, families are able to move from anxious day-by-day living into a stable, informed, and calm plan for future care.

Quality of Life for All 

The MSW Care Manager understands that well-being needs to be protected and quality of life should extend to the whole family. The well-being of an adult child shouldn’t be sacrificed for an aging parent and vice versa. All life matters and it is our task to collaboratively take good care of each other as we step into a new era of long life.

In March, we celebrate and appreciate all of the social workers doing important work and the impact of their advocacy for well-being and care. Thank you for all that you do and for meeting our needs in the in-between spaces and places of transition. 

If your family is transitioning into caring for aging parents or planning for the future, making good choices begins with having Sound Options. As the largest Geriatric Care Management firm in Washington State, we have been serving families in the Puget Sound region for over 25 years. Our team of RN and MSW Care s take a round-table approach to care, sharing insights and creativity that stems from their educational backgrounds. Begin with a 1-hour consultation around our table as we build a plan for care and quality of life that meets your needs. Give us a call today at 800.628.7649 or find out more online at http://www.soundoptions.com/geriatric-care-management

Published on March 11, 2015.