The Chronically Disabled Elderly in Society

The Chronically Disabled Elderly in Society

The Chronically Disabled Elderly in Society

The Chronically Disabled Elderly in Society

Synopsis

In this period of upheaval of our nation's health care system, this timely work serves to increase awareness of and knowledge about the problems of societal living among the chronically disabled elderly. To meet the goal of optimal social functioning of the chronically disabled, past and present attitudes and practices of education, health care, and social service providers need to be examined and in many cases changed or discarded. Focusing on macro and micro contexts--and using examples to highlight actual experiences and processes--the need for a comprehensive approach to chronic disabling conditions is illustrated. This work has important implications for institutions of education in health and social sciences, policy makers in health care and social services, advocacy groups for the elderly and disabled, and individuals and families facing the care of the chronically disabled.

Excerpt

The concept of the social complexity of chronic health conditions first developed in 1969 during the supervision of graduate social work students from the Adelphi University Graduate School of Social Work, who needed to have components of the three fields of social work in their first year internship. The unit was based in an acute care public hospital in a very depressed area of The Bronx, New York, in a neighborhood with all the social ills still prevalent today.

The sequelae of lead poisoning was selected as the focus of the student internship that year. Each of the students carried families with one or more children hospitalized with lead poisoning. One student organized tenants to redress physical deterioration in their building where a child had been hospitalized with lead poisoning. Another student worked with basketball players in a church basement to involve them in the problem. A hospital-wide interdisciplinary committee on lead poisoning was organized by one student, incorporating physicians, nurses, social workers, the demographer, and statistician. This committee wrote public letters in its own name, organized and conducted a borough-wide public meeting on lead poisoning, and responded positively to a request from a community activist organization to conduct two days of lead poisoning screening at their headquarters. A method developed in another university to test buildings for lead-based paint inexpensively was used by another student to involve volunteer community members. This plan was submitted to the city Department of Health. When an audience with the Com-

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