What Does a Gerontological Social Worker Do? (With Careers)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 22, 2022

Published May 15, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Those who want to specialize in a social work discipline may want to know the answer to, "What does a gerontological social worker do?" These professionals require strong empathy skills and help clients who want to overcome obstacles. By knowing more about what this social work specialization requires, you can decide whether this is the right profession for you. In this article, we discuss what gerontological social workers do, provide you with a guide to become one of these professionals, and explore related careers.

What does a gerontological social worker do?

By knowing the answer to "What does a gerontological social worker do?" you can decide if this profession aligns with your skills and interests. Gerontological social workers provide their clients with counselling services to help cope with the obstacles that occur as they age. They help with the psychological, emotional, and financial struggles and losses that clients experience. Gerontological social workers can work in clinics, along with community organizations, private practices, and hospitals.

Their responsibilities include providing older adults with resources that help them cope with daily living and collaborating with other professionals. Here's some more information about the duties of gerontological social workers:

Case management

Gerontological social workers typically work in interdisciplinary teams to help provide their clients with consistent and holistic care. These teams consist of professionals like nurses, doctors, psychologists, and occupational therapists. By managing cases, social workers provide their clients with community resources that help them navigate their daily lives. For example, a client who requires psychosocial support can either receive this support from their social worker, or the gerontological social worker provides a referral to a mental health professional.

Related: Social Service Worker vs. Social Worker: What's the Difference?

Referrals

When social workers experience limitations in their capacity to help clients, they provide those clients with referrals that allow them to seek services elsewhere. For example, gerontological social workers working in clinics can provide their clients with referrals to occupational therapists, who install equipment that helps them function within their homes. To provide referrals, social workers require knowledge of their own limitations and reflect upon their capacity or role in the client's life.

Related: Skills of a Successful Social Worker

Note-taking

Gerontological social workers take notes and maintain records about patient progress and files daily. These professionals know how to maintain client confidentiality while taking notes to prepare for potential security threats. This requires writing skills and the ability to provide information about client progress while limiting identifying information about clients.

Related: Cover Letter for Social Worker (With Templates and Samples)

Assessments

Social workers conduct regular assessments to determine the needs and goals of their clients, along with potential risks. The assessments used depend on the hiring organization. Some assessments require a minimum number of visits, while others allow social workers to complete them in a few hours.

Home visits

Gerontological social workers typically conduct home visits to determine the health and safety of their clients. This provides them with information that they can only gain from home visits, like whether a client has enough food and whether they use the equipment prescribed by occupational therapists. Home visits also help gerontological social workers build stronger relationships with their clients because they can speak directly with those clients.

How to become a gerontological social worker

Here's a guide for those who want to become gerontological social workers:

1. Obtain an education

All social workers require postsecondary education in social work. Many students also choose to complete a graduate degree in family counselling or social work. Undergraduate programs typically last a minimum of three years of full-time studies. Some students also work as social service technicians. These technicians differ from social workers because they focus primarily on psychosocial support, while social workers focus on resource management and case management.

During their education, students also complete an internship, or several internships, as a component of their course requirements. These internships typically last for one year and provide students with the opportunity to use their theoretical knowledge in practical situations and to conduct interventions with clients. During their internships, social work students have the opportunity to specialize in specific niches. Those who think they want to work as gerontological social workers can ask for internships with older adults and aging communities.

2. Get a license

Social workers require a license to work with this job title, and those with a social work degree who don't have a license typically have the job title of human relations worker. The requirements for licensing depend on the province jobseekers live in. Here's a list of the regulatory boards for those who want to be social workers:

  • British Columbia: British Columbia College of Social Workers

  • Alberta: Alberta College of Social Workers

  • Manitoba: Manitoba College of Social Workers

  • Ontario: Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers

  • New Brunswick: New Brunswick Association of Social Workers

  • Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia College of Social Workers

  • Prince Edward Island: Prince Edward Island Social Work Registration Board

  • Northern Canada: Registrar, Professional Licensing Government of the Northwest Territories

  • Quebec: L'ordre des travailleurs sociaux et des thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec

Those who live in provinces without a listed licensing board can consult the Canadian Association of Social Workers to determine the regulatory requirements or licensing requirements for their province.

3. Develop skills

Here's a list of skills that gerontological social workers benefit from acquiring:

  • Empathy: This refers to the ability to identify and attempt to understand the experiences of others. Social workers benefit from having empathy because they consider their clients' emotions and viewpoints while helping them to achieve personal goals.

  • Communication: Social workers benefit from having strong communication skills because they interact with colleagues and clients daily. They develop the ability to communicate clearly and professionally during these interactions.

  • Organization: This refers to a social worker's ability to organize their schedules and maintain organized notes and filing systems.

  • Self-care: Social workers use self-care to increase their wellbeing, which allows them to help their clients more effectively. This is because social workers who have decreased well-being can experience less patience or productivity.

Career options in social work

Here's a list of career options in social work:

1. Counselor

National average salary: $24.99 per hour

Primary duties: Counselors provide their clients with therapeutic services to help them overcome obstacles in their development and daily life. These professionals create and implement care plans that their clients use to achieve their goals. They also help clients discover resources for both themselves and their families.

2. Community care worker

National average salary: $20.91 per hour

Primary duties: Community care workers work with community organizations and help their clients accomplish goals. These professionals provide psychosocial support to their clients and conduct community outreach. They also conduct research that helps them develop and implement programs that promote and maintain both the help of the individual client and the health of the community. Community care workers establish a need within larger communities, like individuals within particular locations, and work for, or develop, organizations that fulfil those needs.

3. Employment counselor

National average salary: $24.08 per hour

Primary duties: Employment counselors interview their clients about their previous employment history, along with their goals and educational background to establish potential career paths. When clients have goals that extend beyond their current experience or education, employment counselors provide them with advice that helps them accomplish those goals. For example, someone with a background in nursing may require additional education or certifications to begin different careers. Employment counselors help clients develop strategies for job searches and use assessment tools to determine the strengths and weaknesses of those clients.

4. Family service counselor

National average salary: $31.81 per hour

Primary duties: Family service counselors provide their clients with emotional support throughout struggles and obstacles. Some of these professionals work in child protective services, while others work in grief counseling and private organizations or clinics. These professionals also help guardians learn the best techniques for overcoming obstacles within families through workshops and skills training.

5. Program counselor

National average salary: $21.92 per hour

Primary duties: Program counselors provide clients with counseling and psychosocial support, along with guidance that helps them navigate their daily lives. These professionals help clients improve their overall mental, physical, and emotional health through crisis intervention and individual interventions with clients. Program counselors work in organizations that have targeted programs for their clientele. For example, program counselors in domestic abuse shelters can provide group intervention classes to their clients.

6. Substance abuse counselor

National average salary: $35.94 per hour

Primary duties: Substance abuse counselors meet with clients to assess their health and to determine the current state of substance abuse issues. These professionals identify issues and help clients achieve personal and treatment goals. They also help clients develop coping mechanisms and lead group sessions.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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