What Do Geriatric Social Workers Do?

General Information

What is a Social Worker?

A social worker helps to address psychological and social needs of persons in stressful situations, and to help them find resources and services. They work with individuals, families and communities to help guide these groups through life’s many challenges. Social workers work in a variety of places including hospitals, senior homes, community services, and government organizations.

How Are Social Workers Licensed?

Social workers are licensed by their state’s Department of Health, which offers licensing for a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in social work (it varies by state). You can also ask for the social worker’s business card or ask to see proof of their credentials.

What Additional Training Will a Social Worker Have?

A social worker will usually go through an internship and also an orientation period (1-2 weeks usually) at a hospice. Social workers might receive ongoing training.

How Much Do Social Work Services Cost?

  1. Hospice
    • If the patient is enrolled in hospice and is over the age of 65, Medicare will cover the costs of the social worker’s services.
    • Medicaid might also cover hospice social work services. Talk with the hospice service provider to discuss coverage.
  2. Assisted Living or Nursing Home
    • If the patient is enrolled in an assisted living or nursing home facility, the social work services may be included in the monthly base rate or may be an additional service fee. Talk with the facility administration about the costs and coverage options.

Geriatric Social Workers

What is a Geriatric Social Worker?

A geriatric social worker is a professional social worker with expertise and training in senior health care issues, such as aging, assisted living, nursing home and end-of-life care. They might also be referred to as “geriatric care managers”(GCMs).

What Does a GCM, or Geriatric Social Worker, Do?

  1. Like most social workers, GCMs work as part of a “care team.” Along with home health aides, physicians, nurses, volunteers and other specialists, GCMs work with health care professionals to facilitate health care.
  2. After a patient is enrolled into assisted living, nursing home or hospice care, a social worker meets with the patient and the patient’s family to make an initial assessment. This meeting outlines the services and care plan for the patient.
  3. GCMs may work with a large number of patients. They are responsible for providing social and psychological help and resources to a patient and the patient’s family. They may also do advocacy work in the community and offer classes or training to other social workers and volunteers.

What Services Do Geriatric Social Workers Offer?

  1. For assisted living and nursing home care, a GCM might offer:
    • Assisting with the transition to long-term care
    • Filing necessary paperwork
    • Help with access to resources on legal and financial matters
    • Advance care planning: living wills, advance directives, DNR orders
    • Counseling
    • Act as liaison between patient, family members and health care staff
  2. For end-of-life or hospice care, a social worker might offer:
    • Counseling for transition to end-of-life care, both for family and patient
    • Help with recording “life stories”; help the patient say their goodbyes through writing letters, phone calls, videos, etc.
    • Help with making funeral arrangements
    • Bereavement counseling

WHN TIP: The Choice of Services

The patient and family have the right to choose which services they would like. They are also free to decline services if they choose.

How Can I Find a Geriatric Social Worker?

Contact your:
  1. Local agency on aging
  2. Place of worship
  3. Local hospitals and clinics
  4. Senior community services and centers
  5. Ask community members, friends, family, patient’s physician for recommendations

Updated: 5/2009