The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

Posted by The Bristal  |

How Social Workers Support Dementia Caregivers

From working with at-risk youth to helping families navigate the healthcare system, social workers provide wise guidance, a listening ear, and practical assistance. 

For families facing the challenge of dementia or other memory-related cognitive disorders, social workers serve a key role and are important members of the caregiving team.

Understanding the Role of Social Workers in the Dementia Caregiving Journey

If you’re caring for a loved one living with dementia, how can a social worker help you? There are so many ways here are just a few.

Offering Emotional Support

Gentleman comforting an elderly woman.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia impacts the individual as well as the entire family. Responding to shifting family dynamics, as well as uncertainty over the future, can evoke a wide range of emotions.

The emergence of difficult behaviors such as aggression or wandering can blindside caregivers – leaving them feeling confused and unsure of how to respond.

In addition to supporting families as they identify and process their emotions, social workers can help normalize the role of caregiving for someone living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. 

Related: How to Become a More Resilient Caregiver >>

Assisting With Locating Resources

Gentleman working with a woman social worrker

Family members who are new to caregiving can be quickly overwhelmed by the information they’re learning and by the resources they need to locate. By necessity, social workers wear numerous hats – making them especially adept at helping families with a variety of issues, which may include:

  • Determining if your loved one qualifies for community services
  • Connecting families with community resources
  • Assisting caregivers who are struggling with stress and burnout
  • Providing education about your loved one’s condition, especially as it progresses

Social workers can also serve as your family’s communications director – connecting with the various professionals on your caregiving team and ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Related: How to Give Yourself a Break When Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s >>

Providing Wise Counsel

Caregiving can be physically, mentally, and emotionally tiring. Social workers understand the struggles caregivers face and can provide a listening ear when needed most.

In addition to a shoulder to lean on, social workers can help you develop a care plan that may include self-care strategies or counseling. Your social worker will check in regularly to ensure you take care of yourself and aren’t suffering from burnout.

As your loved one progresses into the middle and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you will need to make more decisions on their behalf. When should they stop driving? Is it safe for them to live alone? Who will pay their bills? The list can seem overwhelming.

Tension over treatment recommendations or caregiving roles is also common. Social workers are experts at guiding families through decision-making and helping family members navigate relational hurdles.

Creating a Higher Quality of Life

A social worker’s role in caregiving not only helps you as the caregiver but also your loved one living with the diagnosis. You’ll be better equipped and more confident with helpful resources, emotional support, and wise counsel to provide your loved one with the best care and a higher quality of life. 

Related: What is a Geriatric Care Manager? >>

Finding a Social Worker Near You

Social worker sorting through dementia caregiver paperwork

Talk to your healthcare provider about getting a referral for a social worker. You can also call 800-438-4380 or email to talk to an information specialist at the Alzheimer’s & related Dementias Education & Referral (ADEAR) Center. The center is a service of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. 

Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America offers a helpline of licensed social workers available seven days a week. 

More Caregiver Resources

The Bristal Assisted Living salutes social workers for the support they offer families who are caring for loved ones with dementia.

Searching for more caregiving resources? Visit our “Where to Begin” page to learn more about assisted living and other options, understand costs, and find support for caring for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Get Started

This blog was originally published in March 2021. It was updated in December 2023.


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