& Social Workers Caregivers S

Social Workers
A team that helps and cares
ocial workers often work directly with caregivers. They may
help your family member or friend in a hospital, or in a
home care program. As well, social workers are often employed in
• rehabilitation programs
• family service centres
• community centres
• mental health and addiction services
• employee assistance programs, and
• the justice system or children and youth services.
Social workers may work with other health care professionals
such as respite centre staff, occupational therapists, speech
therapists, psychologists, physiotherapists, doctors, nurses,
dieticians and pharmacists.
What social
are saying
about YOU
“ We know the care recipients do better when they have
family support.”
“ A support system is so very important, and so when
we’re talking about families, we’re talking about the
non-professional, the non-paid caregivers, and thank
goodness for them. They make a difference.”
What social workers know about caregivers
• Caregivers provide frequent, ongoing support for someone
with a health care need.
• You may be looking after a spouse, parent, grandparent, child,
grandchild, or friend who has physical or developmental
• You may have quit your job or changed your work hours so
you can offer care. You may have to travel to arrange care.
You may need money or other support to help with your own
• As the person you are caring for becomes less able to do dayto-day tasks, you may have to take on more. This may mean
you are responsible for the family budget, banking, home
maintenance, and all parenting (such as driving children to
sports or other programs). The work cannot be shared
• Sometimes caregivers act as chauffeurs and therapists (doing
physiotherapy at home). At the same time, they are expected
to provide emotional support to their family member or
• Some caregivers call by telephone to offer support from far
away. Others live with the person that needs care. In both
cases, the caregiver can suffer from caregiver stress.
• Caregivers are a key part of Canada’s economy, because they
step in and help for free.
What you can do
Have one point of contact within your family. This will help
to improve communication with the social worker (and avoid
Go into appointments with your family member or friend.
Listen to what is being said so you can help them remember
Make a list of questions and take it with you to all
appointments. Check off items as they are discussed. Do not
feel shy about asking questions, even if you start with, “I’m
not quite sure about…”
Set aside time to have a good discussion with the social
Know and ask as much as you can about the health of your
family member or friend. Ensure that you are updated.
Find out how many hours of help from the social worker are
offered through your program or plan. Knowing how long
you can work with the social worker can help both of you
focus on meeting your goals.
Taking care of yourself is important. Building in time for
yourself helps you have more energy and strength to care for
Don’t be shy. Ask for help. Deal with problems right away
and do not feel guilty about needing help – it’s a natural
part of caregiving.
Quote from a social worker
Right from the start, don’t be a hero, because we know that this
caregiving is hard work in many ways. Be very clear that you need
help, and be clear about which areas.
Social workers offer support that caregivers need
Social workers can work in many roles. They may be a counsellor, case manager, educator, or
advisor. They can act on behalf of your family member or friend (as an advocate) and they can
help other people on the health care team work well together (facilitator).
They can help you
Social workers can also
• Explore your needs and options so you can
make good choices for yourself and for the
person you are caring for.
• Communicate with others on your behalf, or help you get in touch with
groups such as those working on Alzheimer’s, arthritis, or cancer.
• Find a respite or support group for yourself.
• Learn how to access programs (such as getting
your family member or friend into a nursing
home or setting up drivers, meals, or
housekeeping services).
• Find your way through systems and processes
(such as the health care system, government
financial aid like compassion benefits, suitable
housing, transportation, and other fees and
• Balance the roles and needs of other family
members when the needs of the person you are
caring for change over time.
• Help you connect with other health care professionals (such as
physiotherapists, occupational therapists, etc.).
• Link you to people who supply home health equipment, personal support,
and professional services.
• Connect you to resources for power of attorney, wills, other legal services.
• Counsel families to help them cope with illness, injury, or disability.
• Work with you to plan ahead. They can help you predict what caring for
your family member or friend will involve both in the short-term (feeling
grief if the illness or health problem is sudden) and long-term (role
changes, loss of independence, steps to take before and after death, grief
after death).
• Give advice for different stages of care and prepare you for the shift from
helping someone in the hospital, to helping them at home,
to long-term care.
This article was produced thanks to funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The
views expressed in the article do not necessarily represent the views of the Ontario Ministry of Health and
Long-Term Care .