View Full Version : Question for Social Worker re Elder Care

06-11-2012, 08:07 PM

I have searched the forum and not been able to find a post that already addresses this topic.

My current WIP involves an elderly woman suffering from dementia who wanders away from home.

The police are unable to locate her family. The woman is physically healthy, just unable to recall her name or address.

From my basic research, Social Services would be involved on some level, but I can't find solid answers to:

Where would this woman stay? A hospital? Even if she's medically sound?

Is it plausible that the same social worker would handle a case like this and cases involving children and families or are these kinds of things specialized?

Any help would be much appreciated, thank you!

Krissy Reynolds
06-11-2012, 08:27 PM
Well, I was recently a social work major, so I can try and help, but I may not be 100% accurate.

Social Services, in these scenarios, kind of work as a channel between the family and the services that would provide this women with care. Because the women's identity is unknown, it is more likely a police thing, but the Social Worker would work with the women, trying to keep her comfortable and be there for later on, after the family is identified. Once the family is found, the social worker would introduce the family to options, such as keeping the woman in a home or list resources if the family wishes to go with home care. They would also show them counseling resources, to help the woman and the family cope with the new scenario.

I'm not sure about the location, whether they would check her in to a temporary care residence, like a nursing home or hospital, but either would have access to clinical social workers.

Social Work tends to branch off in two directions: General and Clinical. Clinical is more on the medical side, dealing with illnesses such as dementia or counseling for individuals families that are losing a loved one from cancer or other illnesses, or are trying to connect people to resources like hospice care.

However, certain organizations do have social workers in both areas, ones that attend to the more medical setting and those that work with children and families. Generally though, they wouldn't overlap in there responsibilities, unless the children and family are connected to the illness and are working with the social worker for that reason. If it is a matter of abuse or even just a child acting out in school or in low income situations, then more likely than not, they would be dealing with a Child & Family social worker.

The training for the two areas are widely different, Clinical Social workers learn a lot more about the medical side of things and are familiar with the terminology. Also, in order to become a clinical social worker, you HAVE to have a master's degree (9 times out of ten) in that profession (or other medical related areas) and also many times, a PHD, while in other areas of Social work, there are countless of degrees you can have--some with little or none training on being a Social Worker, like English or History.

So, in all, Social Workers can work in many environments and generally have diverse cases and experience depending on their current organization , but clinical and other general social workers don't blend cases often, unless the situation that they are dealing with is for both. Though, even in those circumstances, Social Work is a team effort and many social workers will talk and work with each other in order to provide support and give effective care and help to their clients, so there can be multiple social workers who help out on one case.

Hope that some of this helps!!

06-11-2012, 08:44 PM
If she's physicially well but mentally unsound, there would be a few options.

1. Family members would live with her or she would live with them.

2. If they had the money and resources and didn't want to take care of her themselves, they could have a live in care worker, a nurse that visits.

3. They could have her live in assisted living. Where meals would be cooked, medication would be given to her by a nurse but otherwise she would live in her own apartment and have some freedoms.

4. If she is so far gone she gets herself into lots of trouble such as wandering across a busy highway, then she'd probably be put into a nursing home where they have security measures in place to keep her on the grounds.

It really depends on what state your character is in and what sort of resources the family has. If they are independantly wealthy and don't want her in a home, they could have personal care services to keep track of her 24/7.

As for the social worker, most likely you'd have a clinical or medical social worker involved who is instructed in medical issues and can help the family navigate the system. Social workers are like a buffer between the clients and the services. They can also act as counselors to the clients and their families.

06-11-2012, 08:50 PM

Thank you so much! Your info was very helpful.

My main character is a woman whose mother died suddenly while they were still estranged. Through helping this lost elderly woman, my MC is able to come to terms with her mother's death, symbolically "save" this other woman in a way she couldn't save her mom.

I was thinking of occupations my MC would have that would put her in a position to interact with the elderly woman.

Edited to add: Thank you icerose!

The elderly woman doesn't reunite with her family until the very end of the book, but your info is very helpful in setting the scene for my MCs career. Thanks!

Krissy Reynolds
06-11-2012, 09:03 PM
No problem!!

If you have any other questions I would be happy to try to answer them for you! :)

06-13-2012, 12:22 AM
Answering your last point, from a UK perspective, on whether the same social worker would handle both elderly and family/child case loads. It would be unlikely because of both the specialist knowledge of local/medical/legal issues, and the particular policies, agencies, networks and funding etc.

Perhaps in a really small community maybe, but in many cases I would expect several social work departments geared to particular issues.

06-13-2012, 05:25 PM
>>Is it plausible that the same social worker would handle a case like this and cases involving children and families or are these kinds of things specialized?<<

I used to be a social worker--worked for a state agency (in the USA) for services for children and families. That agency handled issues related to child abuse/neglect, child mental health, and youth rehabilitation (i.e., juvenile delinquency, juvenile substance abuse, etc.), but not issues related to the elderly. (Even though elderly people may be members of *families,* social work matters concerning them did not fall under *family* services.)

Sorry, I don't know the answer to your question about where a woman in the situation you described would go. I'm wondering if you might find the answer by looking in the phone book or online for "social services" in your area. You might find a category for "elderly" or "seniors" or something like that. State social workers tend to have huge caseloads that keep them very busy, but you might be able to call the agency and find someone willing/able to answer your question.

Hope you get your answer. :)

06-13-2012, 06:33 PM
I realize I didn't answer the question on whether a social worker would do elderly services and work with children. This information deals with the US.

In the case of medical social workers they would deal with any cases dealing with people facing medical issues, this would range from the elderly to the infant. They help them work through the system, access resources, deal with funding, and counsel them on emotional issues. These social workers tend to work primarily in the hospitals.

Specialized hospice social workers and those working in senior services specifically would only deal with those at the end of life and the elderly. Sometimes a child will come into a hospice situation, so it's possible a hospice social worker would deal with children as well, but it would be a few special cases rather than the norm.

Most likely she'd be put in a nursing home where they could keep her from wandering off, especially with no family, the state would fund it so it would have to be a medicare approved facility, which usually isn't as nice. The social worker there would work exclusively with the people in that nursing home. You might get some high care 20 somethings but she wouldn't get any children.

01-01-2013, 08:46 PM
Might be little too late to right on this topic, but i think there are some of old age homes providers who are providing all necessary and luxuries facilities to their customers at some reasonable prices along with 24/7 nursing facilities with complete privacy and according to the needs of their customer, who could also help the elder in any way they need like bathing, changing cloth and other care.

01-09-2013, 03:21 AM
Waffles - if you still have any questions feel free to send me a PM or ask in this thread (I know your question was a while ago). I just saw the thread today, but I am a hospice social worker now, and before that I was a social worker in a nursing home for eight years. The elderly woman who most likely end up in the hospital, and there are social workers and discharge planners there. If she is unable to make her own decisions and no family is stepping up, then the hospital social worker would work to find a guardian for the elderly lady (Can I call her Edith or something?!) Since there is no family, a state guardian (In my area it is through the Office of Public Guardian, but different states may have slightly different names for it.) would most likely be appointed. This is done through court.

The protective services for elders is different than for children/families. In New Hampshire it is called the Department of Elderly and Adult Services, but each state may have a slightly different name. Your main character could be a social worker there too.

One of my friends lived in an apartment building, and her neighbor was an elderly woman. My friend would run errands and check in on her, since the woman didn't have any family nearby. Your main character could interact with the elderly woman without being a social worker if that suited your story better. I hope that helps.