Supporting Those Who Support Others

Empowering Social Works - 2024 theme for National Social Workers Month

Aging and Disability Services—the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County—has been in existence for 51 years. In that time, social workers have been critical to the success of our mission and the health of our community.

Currently, Aging and Disability Services (ADS) has more than 140 staff working in Care Coordination Programs. The vast majority are social workers. They are joined by social service aides, RN consultants, human services coordinators, supervisors, and managers, many of whom are also social workers. Together, they work to ensure the care and wellbeing of more than 15,000 older people and adults with disabilities each year.

I can tell you the benefits extend to entire families who, without the support of our staff, would have a much more difficult time. Without our support, many of our clients would end up moving out of the homes and communities they know and love into expensive care settings, so the benefits our staff provide extend ultimately to taxpayers.

Our Care Coordination Programs—case management, caregiver support, care transitions support, and more—are designed to help people live at home as independently as possible. Our staff:

  • Connects in-home care services to adults (aged 18 and up), most of whom are Medicaid-eligible and challenged by two or more “activities of daily living” (e.g., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring/walking, and continence).
  • Authorize and arrange for in-home services for adults who need personal care services to remain safe and healthy in their home.
  • Conduct in-home assessments and consult with clients and caregivers to develop and implement a service plan that addresses the individual’s personal care needs.
  • Monitor service plans during the year, following up regularly with clients and service providers to ensure that their situations have stabilized.

The social workers on our staff are uniquely qualified to handle issues related to aging, disability, and caregiving, plus a multitude of issues related to physical and behavioral health and the impacts of societal issues such as poverty. They go through years of education and training so they can meet people where they are and help them achieve their goals.

National Social Work Month 2024: Empowering Social Workers

The social workers in Area Agencies on Aging are dependent upon the support of our federal and state lawmakers. The budgets they pass determine not only the wages received but caseloads—the number of clients each social worker is expected to serve.

Washington State Legislative Hotline

You can let your state legislators know your opinion about issues and current legislation by calling (toll-free) 1-800-562-6000. Click on the image above for additional information about contacting your legislators.

Our system has relied on the process of helping clients hire caregivers. Now we face a shortage of paid caregivers in the workforce, which puts additional strain on our staff to help clients manage needs until an in-home care provider is in place. There is insufficient time to make extra home visits while also setting up supports and helping clients recruit caregivers from their family and community networks.

We have asked our State Legislature to ensure that Area Agencies on Aging receive the funds they need to pay our social workers to get clients the help they need so they can stay safe at home. You can help by calling the toll-free Legislative Hotline at 800-564-6000. Tell your state legislators to “Empower Area Agency on Aging social workers by funding their regular caseloads as well as the extra home visits required to serve the needs of our community.”

Mary MitchellContributor Mary Mitchell directs Aging and Disability Services, a division of Seattle Human Services designated by the State of Washington to serve as the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County.

This article appeared in the March 2024 issue of AgeWise King County.