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Empathy in Action: 5 Ways PSL Social Workers Make Life Better for Aging Adults

Empathy in Action: 5 Ways PSL Social Workers Make Life Better for Aging Adults

Health & Aging  |  Miscellaneous

While navigating the complexities of aging, a life-altering medical episode can be a source of anxiety and dread. At Presbyterian Senior Living’s skilled nursing facilities, social workers strive to make the transitions through short-term physical therapy or into long-term skilled nursing care as smooth as possible.

Social workers are unsung heroes, dedicated to improving the lives of older adults. Their role goes beyond traditional caregiving, extending into the realms of emotional well-being, support, and advocacy.

In recognition of National Social Workers Month in March, we’re highlighting several ways Presbyterian Senior Living social workers make life better for aging adults. It’s all part of carrying out the Presbyterian Senior Living mission of providing compassionate, vibrant, and supportive communities and services to promote wholeness of body, mind and spirit.

5 ways social workers improve the lives of aging adults

1. Emotional support

Aging often brings myriad emotional challenges, from facing mortality to dealing with loss and loneliness. While they’re not necessarily counselors, social workers provide a crucial support system by offering services that address emotional needs. Whether helping to cope with grief or manage anxiety, or simply offering to listen, social workers play a pivotal role in promoting mental health among aging adults.

At Presbyterian Senior Living skilled nursing facilities, many of the social workers and other team members are trained in Compassionate Touch. The certification program teaches them to be present and mindful with the individuals they serve while incorporating physical touch into the interaction.

“It’s sitting with someone and putting pressure on their shoulders or drawing figure eights on their back, helping with breathing,” says Alicia Fenstermacher, LSW/MSW, NHA, CDP, Presbyterian Senior Living Vice President of Purposeful Living. “This helps them reduce anxiety, slow down, and be mindful of the moment.”

2. Holistic individualized care planning

Social workers excel in developing comprehensive care plans tailored to the unique needs of each individual. From assessing medical requirements to considering social and emotional well-being, they ensure that every aspect of the lives of those they serve is taken into account. This holistic approach results in personalized care that enhances the overall quality of life for seniors.

3. Advocacy for individual rights

Social workers act as staunch advocates for the rights of aging adults, ensuring they have a voice in the decision-making process. They work tirelessly to protect seniors from abuse, discrimination, and neglect, empowering them to live with dignity and autonomy. Through advocacy, social workers help create environments that foster respect for the rights and choices of older individuals.

2024 Social Work Month

4. Connecting with community resources

Aging adults might face challenges in accessing community resources. Social workers serve as a bridge, connecting seniors with community services, support groups, and recreational activities. This service doesn’t end when an individual leaves a Presbyterian Senior Living skilled nursing facility. When a client heads home, a PSL social worker will ensure that he or she has access to virtual religious services, Meals on Wheels, or virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. By creating these connections, social workers help combat isolation and enhance the social aspect of their clients’ lives.

5. Substance abuse screening and intervention

As substance abuse, including the misuse of prescribed medications, becomes an increasing concern among older adults, social workers play a vital role in screening for potential issues and providing intervention when needed. Every adult who enters a PSL skilled nursing facility, whether for long- or short-term care, is screened for substance abuse disorders. By addressing the issue early on, social workers contribute to the overall well-being of aging adults, ensuring they receive the support necessary for recovery.

“The more honest someone can be with us, the better we can support them through what is a very stressful time in their life,” Alicia says.

Essential partners

Social workers are indispensable allies in the journey of aging, bringing compassion, expertise, and a commitment to improving the lives of older adults. Through such assistance as emotional support, holistic care planning, and advocacy, social workers make a significant impact while helping the individuals they serve hold on to a sense of purpose, dignity, and well-being.

“If you work in social work in long-term care, you’ll never get bored,” Alicia says. “There’s always an interesting variety of people, you’re never doing the same thing twice, and it’s very rewarding seeing people attain their own goals.”

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About Presbyterian Senior Living

PSL is a mission-driven organization that lives our values of integrity, mutual respect, creative curiosity, and connectedness. Building on a legacy of 96 years, we provide residential and care services to more than 6,000 seniors in 27 locations across the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.