Social Work in Long-Term Care

Ever since I can remember, my primary goal has been to stand up for the rights of those who are historically underserved, and create meaningful, substantial change to improve the standard of living of people in my community and elsewhere. Social Work has given me the education, knowledge and theoretical framework to apply to my practice, and best serve the needs of service-users by centering their rights and autonomy.

In our highly individualistic world, we treat our aging citizens with disdain and institutionalized ageism. They are systemically overlooked, neglected and seen as a burden to the system. Canada as an advanced nation is set to see a surge in aging citizens due to a rapid decline in fertility and mortality rates. In 2016, almost 1 in 6 Canadians was 65 or older (16.9% of the population). Because of the rise in senior citizens in the current and upcoming years, also termed as a silver storm by some, the negative rhetoric against senior citizens has skyrocketed. In most developed nations, the public discourse surrounding rapid aging consist of the following: the increased proportion of aging citizens are set to weaken the viability of infrastructure like healthcare and the national pension system, cause a rising trend of intergenerational inequalities, and most importantly, create an enormous demand for long-term care and social support. However, as the pandemic has continued to unleash its worst on our most vulnerable and neglected citizens, it has brought to the forefront the urgent need to shift the lens through which we cater to our senior citizens. In the wake of the pandemic and its devastating impacts, it is now more important than ever to strengthen our long-term care sector, align our health system to cater to the needs of older populations, and developing equitable, age-friendly infrastructure. Community leaders and advocates such as social workers have an instrumental role to play in this organized effort to reimagine a better future for our aging members of society.

My interest in pursuing social work in the long-term care sector is informed by my own social location and lived experience. Coming from an immigrant, South Asian culture which largely reveres our elders for their life experience, wisdom, and contributions to society, I find Canada’s treatment of its aging citizens atrocious and inhumane. As Social Workers and policymakers, it is now more important than ever to push for reform in the long-term care sector. The pandemic has put into focus the vulnerability of the long-term care sector, and the fundamental flaw in the way in which we treat our aging citizens, especially when it comes to poor, racialized senior citizens. Organizations like FCO and other government-adjacent institutions and programs, as well as long-term care centre staff like social workers have an ethical obligation to carry out the pursuit of social justice, and by doing so, we can uplift our aging population who desperately need the care and support they deserve.

Author: Fabiha Tahsin