Social services is a broad term that encompasses programs and services that help meet the needs of vulnerable individuals of all ages. For older adults and their loved ones, social services provides support to enhance their quality of life, focusing on physical, mental, emotional, social, and economic wellbeing. There are several different types of social services, including social work, case management, and care management – and there can be significant overlap between these. Social workers and case managers typically work at hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, senior living communities, government agencies, and social service agencies. This fact sheet will provide an overview of the most common types of social services for older adults and caregivers, with a focus on California. It is important to note that terminology, regulations, and licensing vary from state to state. Services, eligibility requirements, and payment options vary by service or program.
Social workers work with individuals to address health, economic, and environmental factors that impact their wellbeing. They conduct assessments, seek interventions, and develop care plans to improve the client’s quality of life. Interventions can include but are not limited to: mental health counseling, medical treatment, housing, transportation, social activities, and benefits coordination. Social workers can be licensed to provide counseling and therapy (known as clinical social work).
The fees for social work services vary. In some cases, they may be covered by health insurance or other benefits programs. In other cases, they may be privately paid.
Social workers are not required to be licensed in California, except if they are providing clinical social work. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) focus on mental illness and other behavioral disturbances, and can provide psychotherapy and counseling. LCSWs are regulated by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
Case managers typically focus on service coordination, including assessment, determination of eligibility, and referrals. Service coordination can include benefits eligibility, admission to a skilled nursing facility, or enrollment in community-based services. Case managers often work with social workers – but unlike social workers, they cannot provide direct mental health counseling and therapy.
The fees for case management services vary. In some cases, they may be covered by health insurance or other benefits programs. In other cases, they may be privately paid.
Case managers are not required to be licensed or certified in California.
Geriatric Care Management
Geriatric care managers typically provide assessments, care planning, and service coordination. They are often a licensed nurse or social worker, who specializes in geriatrics.
Geriatric care management is typically privately paid, with hourly fees being the most common. Most insurance plans do not cover this service.
Geriatric case managers are not required to be licensed or certified in California.