As we age, often we become far less capable of accomplishing tasks that were once considered easy. A decline in our cognitive and physical functioning contributes to these changes. Things like scheduling and coordinating appointments, completing applications, driving, and caring for our personal needs may start to present great challenges.
Aging often presents another major challenge—as we get older, typically we start losing the supports around us. Family members and friends move or pass away. As our support systems start fading away, we experience grief and loss. This fact alone can make it difficult for us to function and manage our lives effectively.
Well, thank goodness for professional social workers and case managers who can step in and bridge the gap!
March is National Social Work Month. The 2022 theme is “The Time is Right for Social Work.” Truly, this is a good time to enter the profession. Also, this month is an awesome time to recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate the amazing and dedicated professionals who serve our elders.
People become social workers because they truly care about making a difference in someone’s life and want to contribute to positive change in society. Social workers typically have many wonderful attributes. Let’s touch on a few of these amazing qualities:
- Social workers are insightful. They can assess the needs of an older adult quickly and thoroughly even when that person may not be able to express their needs fully. In other words, social workers can step in and bridge those gaps.
- Social workers are caring and compassionate. Just by their true nature, they care about the well-being of others and can provide support and put people at ease. These are important attributes when working with older adults who may need time to develop trust with any person who offers help.
- Social workers are patient and understanding. They take time to listen to the concerns of older adults who may not be able to express thoughts as quickly, easily, or thoroughly as they did when they were younger. Social workers listen to truly understand a person’s needs and they ensure that clients feel their needs have been heard.
- Social workers are dedicated and diligent. They find answers and seek solutions, and don’t stop until solutions that are right for their client have been identified.
- Social workers are supportive. They provide encouragement and as much hand holding as needed to reassure a person that they are going to get the help they need.
Thankfully, 124 years ago, the field of professional social work began to take shape. In 1898, the first social work class was offered at Columbia University. There are now over 700,000 social workers employed in the United States. This statistic is truly mind blowing!
Our population continues to age at a rapid pace due to baby boomers moving into retirement. Amazing social workers who already serve our communities and new people who enter the profession will become even more invaluable.
Social workers bridge the gap when people are no longer able to care for themselves, when families and friends start fading away and, when they start to lose hope. Look around you and take a moment to tip your hat to all of these amazing angels on earth, as they continue to care for those who may have difficulty caring for themselves.
Contributor Nancy Tillman is a social worker in the Aging and Disability Services Case Management Program. Currently, the program includes 112 case managers, social service aides, and case management supervisors, whom we honor during National Social Work Month. Currently, Nancy works on the Care Coordination Hospital Transition Project, assisting hospital social workers and nurses who support patients in transitions from hospital to home. She is a regular contributor to AgeWise King County. Recent articles include “Aging in Place Gracefully” (October 2021) and “A Sobering Journey” (January 2020).
Anyone wishing to explore social work as a career can contact the school of social work at their nearest university or contact the National Association of Social Workers Washington State Chapter.