How the Novel "Days in the Lives of Gerontological Social Workers" Contributes to Social Work Literature
Gerontological social workers are experts at meeting the biopsychosocial needs of older adults. Part of the job is connecting the elderly with community resources. Social workers coordinate care for individuals who need a number of services and who will, over a period of months, years, and sometimes decades, require care at different levels. They help elderly individuals and their families examine their needs, and determine how they will be paid for. They assist them in applying for needed services and dealing with problems as they arise. They may help seniors fill out various other kinds of paperwork, including advance directives. Gerontological social workers may need to assess clients’ functional capacity. They have some expertise in recognizing the difference between normal and abnormal aging processes and will refer clients to medical professionals when necessary.
This book, like its predecessors Days in the Lives of Social Workers and More Days in the Lives of Social Workers, highlights the experiences of social workers through first-person narratives. This volume focuses on professional social work in direct and indirect practice with and on behalf of older adults. The contributors to this book are social workers at the BSW, MSW, and doctoral levels. Gerontological social work is a growing and exciting practice specialty! The stories told by these gerontological social workers will transform your thinking about what this type of work entails. You will gain a better understanding of the issues facing older adults and their social workers, and you may be inspired to pursue this career path. This engaging collection will make a welcome supplement to the theory found in traditional textbooks. Organizations, Web sites, additional readings, and a glossary of terms are included to assist you in further exploring these areas of social work practice. Photographs by social worker/photographer Marianne Gontarz York are featured to expand your visual images of real people as they grow older.
The ecological perspective argues that individuals can only be understood within the context of the systems and the environment where they live (Germain, 1991). A system is a set of elements or conditions that influence one another through their interactions. An individual’s social system is comprised of the people and systems that influence their development such as family, school, neighborhood, and work. This perspective guides the social work approach to practice and emphasizes the interaction between individuals, families, organizations, communities, and institutions. The ecological perspective requires a balance between client and provider-driven priorities within a social service delivery system in order to work with older adults and their families. Client-driven priorities focus on building rapport with clients, assessment, and developing and implementing intervention plans, while providerfocused priorities emphasize resource development and management, professional supervision, developing collaborative partnerships, and advocacy. It is impossible to work with older adults effectively if these priorities are not congruent and social workers are not prepared to work within and across systems. The social work profession is a significant service provider for older adults and their families. In 2006, the Center for Workforce Studies at the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) conducted a national survey of 10,000 licensed clinical social workers in the United States. The authors found that 75% of social workers have older adults (55 years and older) in their caseloads (Whitaker, Weismiller, & Clark, 2006).
In short, social workers often model for students who observe them interviewing patients, administering mental status or depression scales, and communicating with patients or family members. Social workers assist with didactics through classroom presentation to medical students on Medicare, Medicaid, levels of care, and community resources. They also observe, instruct, critique, and grade students as they role-play physician-patient interactions in the classroom. As the need for medical social workers increases, consistent with the rising percentage of older adults in the population, it is likely there will be an even broader application of social work skills in medical, academic, and community outreach settings through use of the interdisciplinary team concept.
Germain, C. B. (1991). Human Behavior in the social environment: An ecological view. New York: Columbia University Press.
Whitaker, T., Weismiller, T., & Clark, E. (2006). Assuring the sufficiency of a frontline workforce: A national study of licensed social workers. Special
report: Social work services for older adults. Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers.
Days in the Lives of Social Workers, edited by Linda May Grobman and Dara Bergel Bourassa. White Hat Communications, Harrisburg, PA, 2007