If I had to define social services staff members in one phrase, I would say, “Jacks of all trades.” Their duties and schedules change from moment to moment in order to best serve the individuals in their care. From a regulatory perspective, social services are defined as, “services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”
It would be difficult to provide a comprehensive list of job duties for social service staff members, but I can describe a few common duties and how social services is a valuable resource for residents and their families. In most centers, social services is in charge of taking referrals for admission and working to ensure all necessary documentation, orders and other paperwork are processed in a timely manner. That sounds pretty straightforward, but for social services, it is a process that requires care and a heart for serving others.
When someone moves to a care center for the first time, family members are often experiencing a wide range of emotions. They may feel guilty and inadequate. It is the role of social services to help the family through this difficult time and to reassure them that their loved one will receive the best care possible — care that could not be provided at home.
New residents may be dealing with loss of independence, physical abilities or routine. Social service staff members assess each individual and help him or her cope with the changes. Social services may determine that there is a need to refer the resident for services such as counseling or other forms of emotional care and support.
During a resident’s stay, social services staff members will help ensure the resident’s needs are met, such as arranging for hearing aids, glasses, dentures or medical equipment. They may help residents apply for financial assistance or help with other financial matters. If, at any time, a resident or his or her family has a need or a concern related to the care at the center, social services steps forward to resolve the issue.
When a resident is discharged, social services creates and carries out the discharge plan. This involves working with an interdisciplinary team to identify the needs of the resident and family. Social services will make referrals to community agencies in order to arrange the necessary resources.
If there is a task to be done, and it is not assigned to a specific discipline, it is often the social services staff member who will step in to make sure it is addressed.
By Mary Jo Ball, MSW
Manager, Resident Services