Did you know that March is National Social Work Month? This week is also Social Work Week (March 7-13). Let’s take this chance to highlight the significant role that social workers play in long-term care (LTC) homes and honour the contributions they make in supporting residents and their families and friends.
What is the social work role in long-term care? Social workers practice collaboratively within the interdisciplinary team in LTC. The primary mandate of social workers in LTC is to advocate on behalf of residents and their families. Social Work practice emphasizes building on a person’s strengths to support the maximal quality of life.
Social workers in LTC:
- have expertise in the psychosocial aspects of care
- provide support to residents and their families through the transition of moving into the LTC home, complete social histories and psychosocial assessments
- assist with mediation and conflict resolution as issues arise
- participate in care planning
- locate and arrange for resources
- share the responsibility for the education of residents, families and colleagues. 
In honour of Social Work Week and Month, we took the opportunity to explore with members of the SW and SSW in LTC Community of Practice their own reflections on their practice and role in LTC. It’s apparent that social workers (SW) and social service workers (SSW) are an integral part of the team in LTC.
“SW skills are not as visible as what other team members show in day-to-day like prescribing medication, transferring residents. This makes it hard for others to appreciate our skills,” says Gladys, a Social Worker at an Ontario LTC Home. “I wish others can learn to appreciate our skills and see the important role that we play in a multidisciplinary team, no less than any other disciplines.”
When asked what she loves about her role in LTC, Maja, an SSW at an Ontario LTC Home responded, “I love being an SSW for having the opportunity to meet and engage with so many different people on a daily basis. It’s a privilege to get to know the residents’ stories and build amazing relationships.”
Gladys describes the value of her role within LTC as, “…helping the team to see the residents as persons instead of medical cases and scheduled care tasks.” While Bonnie, an SW at an Ontario LTC home describes, “The value of having a social worker in LTC is difficult to measure. We take care of an individual’s mental and spiritual well-being both in this pandemic and prior to it.”
In collaboration with Family Councils Ontario, the Ontario CLRI at Bruyére has been supporting the SW and SSW in LTC Community of Practice with virtual meetings since May 2020. These monthly sessions provide members with an opportunity to connect with their peers, share resources and discuss challenges that they are experiencing. Topics of discussion have ranged from ways to help residents experiencing loneliness and social isolation, supporting essential care partners, self-care in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to ethical dilemmas in LTC. If you are working in an Ontario LTC home as an SW or SSW we invite you to join – Registration Form.
If you know an SW or SSW who works LTC, please take some time this month to thank them for their important work and visit this link from the Ontario Association of Social Workers for ideas on how to celebrate Social Work Week and Social Work Month.
Learn more about the role of Social Workers in LTC on our Careers in LTC web pages and videos!
 Canadian Association of Social Workers, Social Work in Long-Term Care, Accessed online: https://www.casw-acts.ca/en/social-work-long-term-care