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The Role of a Long-Term Care Social Worker

photo of a long-term care social worker with two elderly clients

The Role of a Long-Term Care Social Worker

The first name you should memorize when admitting a resident to a Long-Term Care Facility is your social worker’s name. This individual is required to be able to handle everything from the admission agreement to consoling a family member who has just lost a loved one.

The importance of a social worker’s position makes them a vital member at a facility – they must be available to address and handle all challenging situations that arise in a day. As a Long Term Nurse, I can still hear the words, “let the social worker handle it.” While they juggle many responsibilities, here are three ways social workers help residents at long-term care facilities:

1. Advocating: Social workers identify resources that will benefit a resident’s quality of life.

2. Communicating: Social workers work with residents and families – this could mean settling family feuds between siblings or addressing residents’ advanced directives.

3. Discharge Planning: Social workers make certain that residents who return home have the correct services in place.

Much like Ombudsmen, social workers advocate for long-term care residents. A skilled social worker will speak out if they see staff abusing a resident – if the facility does not deal with the employee who is being abusive, they most likely lose their social worker.

What qualifications does a social worker have?

A social worker must have a Bachelor’s degree in social work, though having a Master’s degree is also very helpful. Most training is learned while on the job, and the quality depends on who is in charge of the training.

Social workers are required to be licensed by the States Department of Health, just as a nurse or physician must be. This license is also susceptible to being taken away if the worker violates the code of ethics.

Their profession requires them to also be competent in cultural competency. We have become a society that has many elders from different countries, different religions, and last, but not least, the LBGTQIA+ population.

Do you know who your social worker is? If not, I implore you to find out. Make sure to acknowledge them and all their hard work when you see them. Like most medical positions, a social worker’s job can be thankless, but you will also hear how happy they are to be doing it.

For more information, you can contact Rhode Island College which has been turning out excellent social workers for years.

To social workers: on behalf of the Ombudsman office and myself, thank you for all you do.

– Kathleen Heren
RI State Long-Term Care Ombudsman

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