Namkee G. Choi
Adult day care centers provide important health, social, and support services for functionally and cognitively impaired adults and their caregivers. The adult day care services are underutilized, however, because of the shortage of centers, caregivers' lack of awareness of and resistance to using services, and the mismatch between the needs of potential consumers and their informal caregivers and the services provided by the centers. To foster and support the expansion of adult day care centers, lessons learned from national demonstration programs need to be disseminated, and social workers need to be trained to provide essential services at the centers.
Jeanette C. Takamura
Public policy advances in the field of aging in the United States have lagged compared to the growth of the older adult population. Policy adjustments have been driven by ideological perspectives and have been largely incremental. In recent years, conservative policy makers have sought through various legislative vehicles to eliminate or curb entitlement programs, proposing private sector solutions and touting the importance of an “ownership society” in which individual citizens assume personal responsibility for their economic and health security. The election of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House and the slim margin of votes held by Democrats in the U.S. Senate may mean a shift in aging policy directions that strengthens Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, if the newly elected members are able to maintain their seats over time. The results of the 2008 presidential election will also determine how the social, economic, and other policy concerns will be addressed as the baby boomers join the ranks of older Americans.
June Simmons, Sandy Atkins, Janice Lynch Schuster, and Melissa Jones
Transitions in care occur when a patient moves from an institutional setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, to home or community, often with the hope or expectation of improving health status. At the very least, patients, clinicians, and caregivers aim to achieve stability and avoid complications that would precipitate a return to the emergency department (ED) or hospital. For some groups of vulnerable people, especially the very old and frail, such transitions often require specific, targeted coaching and supports that enable them to make the change successfully. Too often, as research indicates, these transitions are poorly executed and trigger a cycle of hospital readmissions and worsening health, even death. In recognizing these perils, organizations have begun to see that by improving the care transition process, they can improve health outcomes and reduce costs while ensuring safety, consistency, and continuity. While some of this improvement relies on medical care, coaching, social services and supports are often also essential. Lack of timely medical follow-up, transportation, inadequate nutrition, medication issues, low health literacy, and poverty present barriers to optimal health outcomes. By addressing social and environmental determinants of health and chronic disease self-management, social workers who make home visits or other proven timely interventions to assess and coach patients and their caregivers are demonstrating real results. This article describes care transitions interventions, research into barriers and opportunities, and specific programs aimed at improvement.
Shirley Gatenio Gabel
The history of social work is deeply rooted in helping vulnerable populations improve their well-being, and children have been at the forefront of these efforts since the inception of the profession. Health is long understood to be critical to children’s well-being. Social workers who are skilled in integrating different systems can play pivotal roles in engineering new and improving existing health-care infrastructures and can act as advocates for fusing health-service systems with other social infrastructures to optimize outcomes for children. This entry reviews trends in children’s health throughout the world, particularly in the United States. It describes the dramatic improvements in reducing infant mortality, child mortality and morbidity from many infectious diseases as well as accidental and environmental causes, and the unequal progress in realizing children’s health. The challenges that lie ahead that pose risks to children’s health are discussed, including the health inequities created among and within countries by social, economic, and political factors. An argument for a comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based, and cross-disciplinary approach to improve children’s future health is presented.
Diana M. DiNitto
This entry defines comorbidity and similar terms used in various fields of practice. It addresses the prevalence of comorbidity, suggests explanations for comorbidity, and discusses integrated treatment for comorbid conditions and the importance of the concept of comorbidity in social work practice.
Lisa S. Patchner and Kevin L. DeWeaver
The multiplicity of disability definitions can be attributed to the heterogeneity of disability, its multifactoral nature, and its effects across the life span. Of particular concern to the social work profession are those persons with neurocognitive disabilities. Neurocognitive disabilities are ones where a problem with the brain or neural pathways causes a condition (or conditions) that impairs learning or mental/physical functioning or both. Some examples are intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and savant syndrome. Neurocognitive disabilities are the most difficult to diagnose often times because of their invisibility. Providing services for people with neurocognitive disabilities is very difficult, and people with these disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations in today's society. This entry discusses neurocognitive disabilities and current and future trends in social work disability practice.
Romel W. Mackelprang
Characteristics that we contemporarily define as disabilities have existed in the human population from earliest recorded history. Societal explanations for disability have varied greatly by time and populations in which disabilities have occurred. At various times in history, disability has been viewed as a blessing from deity or the deities, a punishment for sin, or a medical problem. Social workers have worked with persons with disabilities from the inception of the profession, and in recent years, social work has begun to embrace the concept of disability as diversity and to treat disability as diversity and welcome disabled persons as fully participating members of society. Social work has begun welcoming persons with disabilities as fully participating members of society, including valuable members of the profession.
W. Patrick Sullivan
The psychosocial catastrophe that accompanies serious mental illness negatively impacts individual performance and success in all key life domains. A person-in-environment perspective, and with a traditional and inherent interest in consumer and community strengths, is well positioned to address psychiatric disabilities. This entry describes a select set of habilitation and rehabilitation services that are ideally designed to address the challenges faced by persons with mental illness. In addition, it is argued that emphasis on a recovery model serves as an important framework for developing effective interventions.
Development of the brain in the first 3 years of life is genetically programmed but occurs in response to environmental stimuli. The brain is organized “from the bottom up,” that is, from simpler to more complex structures and functions, so the experiences and environment that shape early development have consequences that reach far into the future. This entry describes the ontogeny and processes of fetal and infant brain development, as well as major risks to early brain development (during pregnancy and after birth), with emphasis on the factors seen in social-work practice. Neuroscience research is changing social work practice, and understanding early brain development and the contributors to poor development is critical for social workers in medical, mental health, child welfare, and other practice settings.
Elizabeth C. Pomeroy, Danielle Parrish, Angela M. Nonaka, and Kathleen H. Anderson
This article reviews existing knowledge on the assessment of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and available screening, prevention, and intervention services. The wide range of preventable conditions associated with FASD throughout the life cycle is described, along with associated high-risk maternal behaviors. In addition, cultural and social determinants are discussed, in an effort to inform social work practice. The differentiation of FASD and protective factors that have been identified as reducing negative outcomes for children and their families affected by prenatal alcohol exposure are also explained. Finally, multidisciplinary and culturally appropriate prevention services are emphasized as well as early diagnosis and strength-based intervention strategies.