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.
This entry presents information about group settings that provide residential long-term care for older adults, focusing on nursing homes and residential care/assisted living communities. It provides an overview of both settings, and describes their scope of services, funding, and clientele. The section Issues in Residential Long-Term Care addresses issues of special relevance to social workers: dementia and other psychosocial care needs; quality of life and quality of care; access to and disparities in care; end-of-life care; family involvement; and abuse and neglect. It ends with a section on the role of the social worker in residential long-term care.
Older workers make important contributions to the workplace, its productivity, and its culture. Work remains important for older adults for financial security, to give meaning to later life, to maintain social networks, and to promote lifelong learning. However, ageist beliefs about the capacity of older adults to remain productive and contributing workers in the workforce can create barriers for older workers. Understanding how older workers experience ageist behavior in the workplace can help employers, policy makers, and social workers learn more about how to address this social problem. Organizations can become more age friendly through enabling workplace programs, supportive management, and proactive human resource managers. Social workers serving older adults in employee assistance programs and in private practice can help them to challenge ageism in the workplace. Finally, legislation such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects the rights of older workers; however, more legislation is needed to address bullying and harassment of older adults in the workplace.
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.
Nancy Morrow-Howell and Leslie Hasche
Despite high levels of functioning among older adults, chronic health conditions lead to impairment and the need for help. Family members provide most of the assistance; yet formal services such as in-home personal and homemaker services, congregate and home-delivered meals, adult day services, employment and educational services, transportation, nursing homes, assisted and supportive living facilities, legal and financial services, and case management are available. Even with the growing number and type of services, unequal access and uneven quality persist. In these settings, social workers develop and administer programs, provide clinical care, offer case management and discharge planning, and contribute to policy development.
Adrienne Asch and Nancy R. Mudrick
Significant visual impairment affects ~8 million Americans, 1.8 million of whom are blind and must find nonvisual methods of performing life roles. Social workers should not assume that people with visual impairment or blindness are unable to work, have families, or engage in sports or travel, or that vision limitations are necessarily a part of every presenting problem. Key roles for social workers include assisting in access to services and training and advocacy to combat discrimination and exclusion.
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.
Martha A. Sheridan and Barbara J. White
Effective social work practice with deaf and hard-of-hearing people requires a unique, and diverse, collection of knowledge, values, skills, and ethical considerations. Salient issues among this population are language, communication, and educational choices, interpreting, assistive devices, cochlear implants, genetics, culture, and access to community resources. Competencies at micro, mezzo, and macro levels with a deaf or hard-of-hearing population include knowledge of the psychosocial and developmental aspects of hearing loss, fluency in the national sign language, and an understanding of deaf cultural values and norms. In the United States, the use of American Sign Language (ASL) is the single most distinguishing factor that identifies deaf people as a linguistic minority group. This entry presents an overview of the practice competencies and intervention approaches that should be considered in working with deaf and hard-of-hearing people, their families, communities, and organizations. It introduces the knowledge base, diversity in community and cultural orientations, social constructions, and international perspectives, current research and best practices, interdisciplinary connections, trends, challenges, and implications for effective social work practice with this population. An integrative strengths-based transactional paradigm is suggested.