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.
Judith G. Gonyea
As a result of rising life expectancies, America’s older population is itself aging. The U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that by the middle of the 21st century, more than 40% of Americans aged 65 and older can expect to live to at least the age of 90. Although the oldest-old is a diverse population, advanced old age is associated with a greater risk of experiencing economic hardship, disabling illnesses or health conditions, and social isolation. A growing public policy challenge will be ensuring the economic well-being, the health, and the dignity of society’s very oldest citizens.