This page provides an overview of the social worker role in long-term care based on the information given to us by social workers in the field and the sources outlined below. The role of a social worker may vary based on the long-term home and region. For a more comprehensive picture of this role, visit the social worker association information links below. This page is part of our Careers in Long-Term Care Initiative.
What does a social worker in LTC do?
A social worker in LTC supports residents and their families with their mental health and well-being, and helps those living with complex needs navigate the system. Social workers consider the psychological, social, biological, spiritual and financial factors that may affect physical and mental health of residents and families.
On any given day, social workers:
- Support residents and their families throughout their time in LTC, including coping with transitions when moving into LTC and when care requirements increase
- Hold individual and group counselling and psychotherapy sessions
- Provide specialized care to those living with dementia
- Support caregivers and team members with grief and bereavement
- Develop and deliver education to team members and families
- Help residents adjust to new life crises, including helping them make plans for end-of-life care
Videos were filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic. All precautions were taken and protocols followed to ensure the safety of residents, team members, and crew, including vaccination requirements, wearing masks, filming outdoors, and distancing.
What skills will I use?
- Providing empathy
- Communicating effectively
- Resolving conflicts
- Planning and problem solving
- Building therapeutic relationships with residents and families
- Advocating on behalf of residents and families
- Program planning and delivery
- Developing policies
How do I become a social worker?
To become a social worker in Ontario, you need to get a Bachelor of Social Work, which is typically a 4-year degree from a university. Some organizations prefer a Masters of Social Work degree, which can take another 1-2 years. Visit the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers to learn more about social work programs in Ontario. To use the title “social worker” you need to join the provincial regulatory body after you get your degree, the Ontario Colleges of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW).
- Social service worker – see Ontario Social Service Worker Association
Connect to social work associations
- Ontario Association of Social Workers (2020). Submission to the Ministry of Long-term Care Staffing Study Advisory Group
- Canadian Association of Social Workers (2002). Social Work in Long-Term Care (webpage).
- National Association of Social Workers (2003). NASW Standards for Social Work Services in Long-Term Care Facilities.
This profile was reviewed by the Ontario Association of Social Workers’ LTC Subcommittee and the Social Workers and Social Service Workers in Long-Term Care Community of Practice, supported by Family Councils Ontario and the Ontario CLRI at Bruyère.
The webpage is part of the Ontario CLRI at RIA’s Careers in Long-Term Care Initiative