Social Work and Health Care in an Aging Society: Education, Policy, Practice, and Research

By Bucher, Scott | Care Management Journals, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Social Work and Health Care in an Aging Society: Education, Policy, Practice, and Research


Bucher, Scott, Care Management Journals


SOCIAL WORK AND HEALTH CARE IN AN AGING SOCIETY: EDUCATION, POLICY, PRACTICE, AND RESEARCH Barbara J. Berkman (Ed.) and Linda Krogh Harootyan (Assoc. Ed.) New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2003, 408pp., $52.95 (hardcover).

Berkman and Harootyan have assembled 16 articles, based largely upon research of the Hartford Geriatric Scholars Work Faculty Program, for the purpose of integrating "the concepts of aging and health care ... in social work educational programs, social-work policy considerations, social work practice, and social work research" (p. 6). Each article of Social Work and Health Care in an Aging Society is divided into sections on current research needs, future research needs, policy implications, integrating knowledge into the curriculum, and the subject's significance to gerontology, health care, and health professionals. This format allows the volume to be of value to a variety of users, while unifying diverse topics under an overarching theme. Subject matter varies greatly and includes dementia, home health care, case management, developmental disabilities, empowerment, elder mistreatment, geriatric assessment, cultural considerations, and social ties. In order to convey the depth as well as breadth of the volume, this review will explore three articles in detail. The first of the examined articles focuses on improving professional practices relating to late-life depression. The other two pertain to grandparents who are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren.

Approximately 10% to 15% of older adults in the community experience latelife depression, whereas 30% to 50% of residences within long-term care (LTC) settings may be affected (pp. 15-16). In light of these statistics, the import of an article on "Late-Life Depression in Nursing Home Residents: Social Work Opportunities to Prevent, Educate, and Alleviate" is self-evident. The author, Margaret E. Adamek, considers issues related to both the diagnosis and treatment of depression. She argues that diagnostic limitations are a "primary impediment" to reducing rates of depression, and identifies multiple causes of this impediment: misperceptions by bodi the public and professionals of what constitutes "normal" behavior; "lack of geriatric mental health expertise among LTC staff"; differing diagnoses between disciplines; inadequate diagnostic tools; and the complexity of LTC residents' medical and social situations.

Adamek suggests that these limitations could be remedied through greater attention to the psychosocial needs of LTC residents, improved sensitivity and comprehensiveness of assessments, and greater interdisciplinary co-operation in care delivery, among other measures. Adamek also presents a "brief review of empirical treatments for late-life depression, as well as emerging knowledge about less common approaches." The review ultimately stresses the need for improved empirical evaluations of nonpharmacologic inventions and a better understanding of the psychosocial factors involved in depression, while providing numerous suggestions for moving in this direction.

Both Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, by Nancy P. Kropf and Scott Wilks, and Strains and Gains of Grandmothers Raising Grandchildren in the HIV Pandemic, by Cynthia Cannon Poindexter and Nancy Capobianco Boyer, are timely contributions to a subject that has received increased academic attention within the past several years. …

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