In some international settings, social workers are employed within aged care settings. However, in Australia, social workers rarely work in residential aged care facilities. In an innovative program, an Australian health network employed a social worker in an aged residential care facility from 2010 to 2011. In this research we examine and evaluate this program. Qualitative semi-structured interviews with nine key stakeholders and data extraction from medical records were conducted. Data from medical records and interview transcripts were coded and themes extracted using thematic analysis. Thematic analysis identified five key themes reflecting the roles performed by the social worker. These were: (1) The importance of having an independent third party, (2) The provision of emotional support to residents, carers and families during the transition period, (3) The importance of role clarity, (4) The provision of family-centered care, and (5) Social work responses to potential difficulties which were preventative rather than reactive. The move into residential aged care can be an overwhelming, and in some cases, traumatic transition for residents and families. Results identified that timely and expert social work intervention can improve the transition process through the provision of counselling to effectively manage grief, loss, and psychosocial issues.


residential care, aged care, carer's needs, transition, social work, grief and loss, end of life, qualitative, thematic analysis

Author Bio(s)

Jodie Lee is a Senior Social Worker with Monash Health, Melbourne Australia. Please direct correspondence to jodie.lee@monashhealth.org.

Michael Splawa-Neyman is a Social Work Manager at Monash Health, Melbourne Australia. Please direct correspondence to Michael.Splawa-Neyman@monashhealth.org.

Associate Professor Fiona McDermott is from Monash University, Melbourne Australia.


The study was supported with grants from Lions John Cockayne Memorial Fellowship Trust Fund and The Lyra Taylor Fund/ Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW). We would also like to acknowledge the support of Dr Rosa Gualano, Monash Ageing Research Centre Manager (MONARC) and Ms Rhoda Lai, Research Assistant at the Monash Ageing Research Centre (MONARC) for their review.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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