Social work and the elderly

As technological advancements and scientific knowledge improve, life expectancy is increasing every decade. Couple with the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation – those individuals who were born shortly after World War 2 and grew up during the 1960s – students who are pursuing their master’s in social work (MSW) can expect to find themselves dealing with increasing numbers of cases involving the elderly.

Approaches to this particular specialty of the social work profession can bring their own unique challenges and considerations, which students and aspiring social workers should be aware of.

General demographic data and resources

General Aging Demographic Data Information compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, detailing the current demographic landscape for the elderly population of the U.S. Students who are earning their MSW may find this a useful place to begin their research when examining issues of the aging population.

Administration on Aging A government agency dedicated to providing elderly citizens with a support network of services, initiatives and programs at county, state and federal levels. Students who are seeking to enter the social work profession following completion of their MSW may find themselves working with representatives of the AoA frequently in cases involving elderly clients.

Care of the Elderly: Research and Policy Issues A paper published by the Institute of Medicine, this report studies the potential for qualitative research projects for social work and human services professionals who are working with elderly clients, and how this research can influence policies regarding the care of elderly individuals.

Careers with the elderly for social work professionals Suggested routes, specializations and career paths for students who are pursuing their MSW and wish to progress into the treatment and care of elderly clients.

The effects of an aging population

Impact of the Aging Population on the Health Workforce in the United States A study detailing how the increasing elderly population of the U.S. could affect the healthcare infrastructure, including the need for social workers and human service professionals.

Supply and Demand: The Need for Long-Term Care Services by Social Workers A report commissioned by the Department for Health and Human Services that investigates how demand for social workers may be affected by factors such as the age of the general population.

Working with elderly clients

Social Workers’ Perceptions of Elderly Clients A study about how social workers’ varying attitudes, techniques and overall treatment of elderly patients and clients can result in different outcomes, and what can be learned by these differences in approach.

How Social Workers Demonstrate Respect for Elderly Clients An article examining how social work professionals can treat elderly clients with consideration, respect and dignity, and how such approaches affect case objectives.

Caring for Elderly Patients A guide published by the U.S. Department of State detailing how human services workers can care for elderly clients and patients. Students who are pursuing their MSW degrees may learn valuable techniques for implementing change, tackling communication difficulties and approaches to longer-term care options.

Dealing with Elderly Patients With Mental Retardation When assigned to deal with elderly clients suffering from mental disabilities, dementia or other extreme mental health difficulties, social work professionals are presented with a uniquely challenging series of obstacles. This article addresses several of these, focusing on tackling cases involving clients with mental retardation.

The Challenges and Choices Faced by Elderly Caregivers Although predominantly aimed at families of elderly people, students and recently qualified social work professionals may find much useful information in this article examining the unique challenges faced by those who are involved in cases with elderly clients.

Social Work and Aging in the Emerging Healthcare World An article examining how the increasing aging population is driving trends in the wider medical profession. Clinical social workers may find themselves increasingly affected by changing practices and attitudes within the healthcare sector as the aging population increases.

Preparing for the Complex Needs of an Aging Population A reproduction of a magazine article investigating how newly qualified social work professionals can approach the rapidly changing treatment landscape relating to the aging population.

Preventing elder abuse

Although perhaps not as widely publicized as cases involving child abuse, incidents of elder abuse can be frequent. Social work professionals are often called upon to assist in cases where elderly clients have been victims of abuse.

What Is Elder Abuse? An article discussing the definitions of elder abuse, in addition to warning signs that indicate elderly clients may be suffering from abuse. This may be particularly useful for students who wish to progress into this specialized area of social work.

Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation in an Aging America An overview of research conducted on reported cases of elder mistreatment and abuse.

Reporting Suspected Cases of Elder Abuse As with any allegations of abuse, sensitivity and professionalism are key. However, in cases where a social worker genuinely believes that elder abuse is occurring, these guidelines for warning signs and suggested reporting protocols may prove useful.

The National Center of Elder Abuse (NCEA) A resource for social work professionals and policymakers, the NCEA helps human services workers ensure that their clients can live with dignity, integrity and independence.

Find out how you can help aging populations by learning more about the Online Master of Social Work program at UNE.

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