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My spouse is in a nursing home and is terminally ill with a degenerative disease. I can tell you that the social workers that I have dealt with in hospitals and the nursing home have been incredibly helpful to our family. I would never view their job as only appeasing complaints or just making "plans and suggestions." They are in the front line of working with the families. They are the experts in a world that we only met through my spouse.
However, if you really want to DO more things for "these people," I'd suggest becoming a nursing home aide and getting your hands dirty. The aides are in the trenches with patients and families every day. The aides who change diapers and spoon food into my spouse's mouth are the ones who are really saints, and who make the biggest difference to our lives.
I felt the question about whether someone feels they "make a difference" in their job is horrible, although I know I'm splitting hairs again. Do you really expect someone in public interest law to say that their career doesn't make a difference? Heck, I make a difference in my job and I'm a corporate lawyer. I help to maintain the health of my company, keeping jobs for employees, the value of my company in countless retirees' portfolios, etc. A mechanic makes a difference to people's lives when he or she keeps a family's car on the road. Everyone's job can make a difference to society or to individuals within society, if it's done well. And there are countless examples of paperwork that is critical to someone such as filing paperwork in time to preserve a lawsuit, to get someone admitted to a hospital, to file a patent to preserve someone's original work, to keep someone from losing their home, etc.