5 Surprising Facts About Gerontological Social Work

1. There is Difficulty Naming the Population


The categories used to describe stages of life used to be “childhood, young adulthood, middle age, and old age” (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.261). Because the average human life span has increased over has increased in recent years, it has begun to be difficult to name the gerontological population. In order to better describe people’s age the U.S. Census Bureau has created new categories: “older to describe individuals age 55 and older, elderly for those 65 and older, aged for those 75 and older, and very old for those 85 and older” (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.261).

2. Old Age Does Not Fit The Stereotypes

Many people look down upon old age and the idea of aging. Although there are some negative parts of aging, like declining physical and mental health, there are positives too, like increased knowledge and life experience. Many older people enjoy life more at this age because they “often have more freedom to pursue activities that increase life satisfaction” (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.262).


3. Older Population is the Fastest Growing


Due to the baby boom generation, the number of people 65+ years of age is the fastest growing population. Within this older population, the fastest sub-population is people over the age of 85. The population of people over the age of 65 has tripled since 1900, today 12% of the US population is over 65 years old, that is about 36 million people. (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.266).

The US Census Bureau estimates that by the year 2030, 20% of the population, about 70 million people, will be over the age of 65, and that about 9 million of them will be over the age of 85 (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.266).


4. There are Gender Differences


Women, typically, live longer than men. For every 100 women over the age of 65, there are 70 men. For every 100 women over the age of 85, there are only 41 men. Since men typically die younger, 43% of women over the age of 65 are widows. Widowed elderly women typically receive help from family members and/or social workers because they are unable to live on their own (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.268).


5. Social Workers Aid Caregivers


A gerontological social worker does not work exclusively with the elderly patient, many times they need to help the family members who are caring for the elder. Although caring for a family member allows caregivers to express affection and often increases their self-esteem, it can also have negative impacts like, stress, anger, guilt, depression, and sometimes even physical injury. It is the job of the social worker to assist the caregivers anyway they need, from providing psychotherapeutic counseling, to assuming responsibility for the elder so the caregivers can take a break and have some time for themselves (as cited in Kaufman & Tang, 2008, p.279).

Works Cited

Kaufman, A. & Tang, M. (2008). Gerontological Social Work. (D. DiNitto & C. McNeece, Ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.

Society and the Mentally Ill




“We don’t talk about mental illness well”-Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (1:05).

When most people talk about mental illness they do not do it in a polite, or proper, way. Words we sometimes use, for example”crazy”,”psycho”, “wacko”, “nuts”, “insane” or “freak”, further reinforce the stigma against those with mental health issues -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (0:32).



“It seems there’s nothing like a mass shooting to suddenly spark political interest in mental health” -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (2:12).

“The aftermath of a mass shooting might actually be the worst time to talk about mental health because, for the record, the vast majority of mental ill people are non-violent and the vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally ill people” -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (2:42).

“The fact that we tend to only discuss mental health in a ‘mass-shooting context’ is deeply misleading” -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (2:57)

“If we are going to constantly use mentally ill people as a way to dodge conversations about gun control, the the very least we owe them is a f***ing plan”-Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (11:37).

“Treatment” Locations

“Snake Pits”


Mental Asylums/Institutions, with terrible conditions, that were shut down by President Kennedy in the 60s. Unfortunately, we never followed through with his plan to replace them with therapeutic centers. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (5:14).

Nursing Homes


The AP released a statement saying,”…nearly 125,000 young and middle-aged adults with serious mental illness lived in US nursing homes [in 2008]” -as cited in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (5:28).

“Greyhound Therapy”


Discharging mentally ill patients too soon and giving them a one-way bus ticket out of town. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (6:09).



“2,000,000 people with mental illness go to state and local jails every year. …there is now 10 times more people behind bars than in state funded psychiatric treatment” -as cited in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (6:47).

The Reality

“…at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems”- as cited in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (7:46).

“In 2013, an estimated 43.8 million adults…in the United States had any mental illness…” -as cited in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (3:42).

“10.0 million…had serious mental illness…in the past year” – as cited in Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health (3:46).


Works Cited

Oliver, J. (Writer), & Hosickson, J. (Director). (2015). Mental Health [Television series episode] In T. Carvell (Executive Producer), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. New York City, NY: HBO.

The 3 Levels of Social Work with Disabilities

1) Micro


Micro level refers to one-to-one bases work. “…the social worker directly assists the client and often the client’s family” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.228). The main job of a micro level social worker is to provide counseling to their patients. As with any other traumatic life experience, the patients and their families may experience feelings of depression. Other jobs of micro level workers include: “assessment, planning, writing service plans, implementing interventions, and evaluating the results of interventions” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.228).


2) Mezzo


Mezzo level refers to work with groups of patients. At the mezzo level, social workers also help develop policies. “Social workers … provide clinical consultation in their employing agency and sometimes for clients served by another agency. They may also provide programmatic consultation to another agency on how to set up an innovative program, thus saving the agency time and money” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.229). One of the biggest jobs for a mezzo level social worker in the field of disability care is working to open “community residence”, or group homes (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.229).


3) Macro


Macro level work refers to work with large institutions. In the field of disability care, social workers are involved with, “…engaging in strategies such as policy making, lobbying, and legislative and court advocacy in order to end disability discrimination” (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.229). Although not directly involved with patients, and therefore often overlooked, macro level social workers play large roles in making high level changes which then trickle down to better the disabled community as a whole.


Works Cited

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, Carl Aaron. (2008). Social work : Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, Ill.: Lyceum Books.

Child Welfare Systems

The welfare system boom in the United States started with orphanages after the Civil War left many kids without parents.


In 1853 “orphan trains” began transferring children south and west from the east. This was the beginning of the foster home system.


Until Sigmund Freud said that the relationship between mother and child was more important than father and child, custody was traditionally awarded to the father in divorce cases.


In 1974 congress passed Child Abuse and Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in order to provide guidelines for states to follow and increases the mediatory reporting rates of suspected abuse or neglect. It also required a guardian ad litem to advocate for the child’s best interests.


Baby Moses laws allow parents to drop their kids off at safe locations like fire departments or hospitals if they’re unable to care for them. 44 states have adopted it since 1999.


In order to assure the best conditions for the children, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 set guidelines for reunification, whether it should happen and if so when.  After 12 months, if the family the child was removed from was not able to create a safe environment, the child is permanently removed from the home.There is then court hearings to legalize the child with a new adoptive family.



Works Cited

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.







6 (of the many) Different Types of Addictions

1. Substance Use Disorders

Of all addictions, this is usually the first to come to peoples mind. Although many people are familiar with it, most are not educated on what it actually entails. Despite the commonplace thinking, substance abuse disorders are not based on how much of the substance it being consumed. DiNitto and McNeece (2008) explain that substance abuse is “…determined by the effects alcohol or drug use have on an individual…”(p.173).

Criteria for substance abuse:

  1. failure to meet obligations at work, school, or home
  2. use of alcohol or drugs in hazardous situations, such as driving
  3. legal problems, like arrests for public intoxication
  4. interpersonal problems, like fights

Criteria for substance dependence:

  1. use of more of the substance to get the same effect
  2. withdrawal symptoms when one is not using the substance
  3. use of more of the substance than intended
  4. unsuccessful efforts to cut down
  5. increasing amounts of time spent using and recovering
  6. decrease in usual activities
  7. continued use despite persistent physical or psychological problems

(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.173)



2. Pathological Gambling

Another common addiction is gambling. In 1999 the National Research Council estimated that approximately 1.5% of adults in the US met the criteria for pathological gambling (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.176).

Criteria for pathological gambling:

  1. preoccupation resulting in illegal acts to obtain money for gambling
  2. loss of family, friends, and jobs
  3. increasing amounts of time spent gambling
  4. lying about gambling
  5. having to gamble more money to achieve excitement
  6. failed efforts tot control gambling, and irritability when trying to do so

(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.175).


poker player with chips and money at casino table

3. Compulsive Eating

It’s no secret that America has an obesity problem. But what many people do not realize is that eating can be addictive. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2001 overweight and obesity rates for adults, children, and adolescents was 61%, 13% and 14%, respectively.

(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.176)




4. Compulsive Shopping or Spending

Everyone knows a “shopaholic”. Although not recognized by the APA as an actual addiction, compulsive shopping or spending follows the same criteria as a gambling addiction. Compulsive shopping can lead to large debts and tensions within families. Most social worker’s experience with compulsive shopping is in marital counseling.

(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.176).




5. Compulsive Sexual Behavior

Compulsive sexual behavior is another addiction that can be confusing to many people. The most common sexual behavior disorder is pedophilia. DiNitto and McNeece summarize the 2007 statement made the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health that tries to define compulsive sexual behavior.

Many forms of compulsive sexual behavior:

  1. loss of control over some form or forms of sexual behavior
  2. negative consequences
  3. constant involuntary preoccupation with the behavior
  4. feeling guilt or shame over sexual behavior
  5. having sex with prostitutes, others one has just met, or people with whom one would not otherwise associate
  6. some may engage in unsafe, painful, or abusive sexual activities
  7. some may restrict sexual activity to only masturbation

(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p.176-7).




6. Excessive Internet Use and Other Excessive Behaviors

Most people these days, especially the younger generations, are constantly with their phones or laptops surfing the web. One’s obsession with the internet can lead to interpersonal tensions. With all the new dating sites and social media platforms out there it’s easy to get caught up in an extramarital relationship. Even more serious, it can lead to many different crimes such as viewing child pornography or soliciting sex form minors. The internet is a great thing but it can be easily abused. According to DiNitto and McNeece (2008), “…it becomes a problem when it interferes with relationships, work, and other aspects of everyday life” (p.177).




Works Cited

DiNitto, D. M., & McNeece, C. A. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.

Reacting to Vets and Their Stories as Told by Connie Studgeon



After working in the VA for 20 years, Connie has heard a lot. You would think there’s nothing she hasn’t heard yet, but she told us that everyday she is surprised by some of the things she hears.

When you’re told something shocking it is only human to have a reaction. Many counselors struggle with this. Should you show how taken back you are and risk them feeling like they said too much? Or should you not react and risk them thinking you are cold, insensitive, or inhumane?

Connie said that the best thing you can do is be empathetic and show that you’re human. They need to be validated. She explained that there have been times where she has had a vet’s session leave her in tears. It is ok to have a reaction, as long as it’s modest and genuine because “they can tell when you fake it”.



When people come back from war they suffer from something called PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. The National Center for PTSD characterizes the four symptoms as: 1) reliving the event, 2) avoiding situations that remind you of the event, 3) negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and 4) hyerarousal (feeling on edge, always on the lookout for danger)

There’s no cure for PTSD and the meaning of “getting better” is different for everyone. But there are three common methods for working to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of PTSD: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE). Another type of, less common, therapy is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), where you have the client focus on sounds or hand movements while discussing the trauma. (National Center for PTSD).

Connie practices mostly CBT. She works with her clients to assist them in learning to live, “to coexist” with their PTSD. Through meditation, like breathing activities and practicing mindfulness, Connie helps her clients find alternative solutions and strategies to change the way they perceive the world around them.

Along with these therapies many doctors prescribe medications to help vets cope but this is a risky area. Connie explained that many vets have substance abuse problems because they self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Prescribing medicine provides opportunity to abuse them. Drugs like Xanax and Valium can no longer be prescribed because they are extremely addicting and led to more harm than good. Many vets to have their acute psychological issues, like depression, resolved before they can make any progress with their substance abuse issues and PTSD treatment.

 Self Care


As you can imagine, listening to war stories can really take a toll on you. Connie’s teammates at the Binghamton Vet Center take care of each other. Every week they sit together to discuss their difficult cases and advise each other. Their team leader leads the counselors in mindfulness activities and takes them on retreats to get away from the stress of the job. Each counselor is also supervised to ensure that they are staying healthy.

In addition to the services provided to her at work, Connie said that she loves comedy and enjoys watching cartoons. She will come home after a long day and sit back and watch her cartoons to have a good laugh.



Works Cited

Connie Studgeon, guest speaker 3/10/16

National Center for PTSD

Call to Action: Health Literacy Promotion in Medical Social Work

What is “Health Literacy”?

Janet M. Liechty, author of “Health Literacy: Critical Opportunities for Social Work Leadership in Health Care and Research” (2011), defines health literacy as, “…the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to appropriate health decisions” (p.99).



What’s so good about it?

Good health literacy has been shown to lead to a higher access to health care and to better quality quality health care, both of which lead to better health results (Liechty, 2011, p.99).


 How big is the problem?

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy reported that, in 2003, more than a third of the U.S. population had low health literacy (Liechty, 2011, p.99).

Studies on health care literacy functioning in U.S. show that 12% areproficient, 52% intermediate, 22% basic, and 14% below basic. Those who scored basic or below are unable to manage their own health care needs (Liechty, 2011, p.100).


What happens without it?

Without health literacy people cannot manage their health care needs because they are unable to communicate their health needs. As a result,they will not receive proper care and may end up with more health problems then when they started. Many will develop also receive higher health care costs because they do not understand what they are paying for (Liechty, 2011, p.99).

Cost of health care increases for those with low health literacy due to self-reported low health, higher rates of hospitalization, longer hospital stays, and higher number of ER visits (Liechty, 2011, p.101).

About $106 to $238 billion is spent on those with low health literacy every year (Liechty, 2011, p.101).

Why is it a social work issue?

Liechty explains that health literacy should be important to medical social workers because it, “…often coexists with other social disadvantages such as low levels of education, lack of medical insurance, and poverty, exacerbating its effects on vulnerable populations frequently served by social workers” (2011, p.99).



What can be done?

There are many solutions to this problem. Some include, educating and supporting patents, health care accommodations from providers, and overall changes to the health care system (Liechty, 2011, p.99).




Works Cited

Liechty, J. M. (2011). Health Literacy: Critical Opportunities for Social Work Leadership in Health Care and Research. Health & Social Work, 36(2), 99-107.

Poverty Here in Binghamton, NY

All over America, poverty is a major issue. According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, American had a 14.8% poverty rate, meaning around 46.7 million Americans were living in poverty.

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.08.24 PM.png

Below is a chart from the U.S. Census Bureau explaining the different poverty thresholds in 2014:

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.24.54 PM.png

According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau, New York State had a 15.9% poverty rate.

In 2012, the state with the highest poverty rate was Mississippi with a stupefying 22.2% of it’s population living below the poverty threshold. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Below is the U.S. Census Bureau’s data for Binghamton, NY, and New York State:

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.30.24 PM.png

Source U.S. Census Bureau: State and County QuickFacts. Data derived from Population Estimates, American Community Survey, Census of Population and Housing, County Business Patterns, Economic Census, Survey of Business Owners, Building Permits, Census of Governments
Last Revised: Wednesday, 02-Dec-2015 09:34:43 EST

From the same table we can look more closely at the housing, income, and poverty rates:

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 1.33.56 PM.png

From 2009-2013, the average percent of New York’s population below the poverty threshold was 15.3%. The city of Binghamton’s average rate of poverty, from 2009-2013, was 33.3%. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Kelly Robertson, LMSW, the Deputy Director of Opportunities for Broome Inc. explained that one of Binghamton’s biggest problems is “hidden poverty”, meaning the person is employed but they do not earn a living salary. The money they make from that job is not enough to support themselves or their families, it is impossible live off of. (in class presentation)
Just down the street, the Roosevelt Elementary School has a 98% poverty rate. (Kelly Robertson, in class presentation)
Sometimes it’s hard to see the poverty around us because we are so blessed to be surrounded by the beautiful campus of an outstanding University, but we need to open our eyes so we can try to help our neighbors who are struggling everyday. Take your clothes and shoes and food you don’t want and bring them to one of the shelters downtown. It may seem like nothing to you, but that could be the only  way some families can get their dinner.



Works Cited

Kelly Robertson, LMSW
Deputy Director of Opportunities for Broome Inc.

U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 1960 to 2015 Annual Social and Economic Supplements.


5 Things We Do To People Re-Entering Society After Prison That Are Just Plain Wrong

1. Released With Little to No Support


Many people are lucky to leave with just enough money to get them home, others don’t even have that much. When Glenn Ford was exonerated in 2014, he left prison with a $20 gift certificate that he used to purchase one meal. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (4:30)

2. Probation & Parole Services


“2/3 of parolees who go back to prison, not due to a new crime, but because of parole violations.” -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (9:20)

Many people get sent back to jail because they cannot schedule, attend, or afford their probation/parole services. In the state of Pennsylvania, just the entry into the probation/parole program is $60. – Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (11:10)

3. Banned from Government and Public Services


Some public housing units do not allow ex-prisoners to live, or even to visit relatives, there. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (5:30)

Many people convicted of felonies are denied access to government food benefits. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (5:20)

Sometimes you can be kept from getting a drivers license or voting. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (6:35)

4. Job Restrictions


Job applications have a question that says “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” and you must check off ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Once employers see that the ‘yes’ box is checked, they may throw out the application and deny the applicant an interview. -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (7:26)

“It makes you a little uncomfortable. You get anxiety when you reach that box. It’s like ‘Wow, um, how are they going to judge me, you know, knowing that I committed this crime? How are they going to feel about this?'”- Carl Lynch, Job Seeker from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (7:38)

Many jobs are completely off-limits to people who have been convicted of felonies, for example “…a nurse; a septic tank cleaner; and in Mississippi, an alligator rancher” -Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (7:00)

5. Societal Judgement

“I’m most worried about being judged for who I used to be. I’m not that same person… I am no longer that person…” -Bilal Chatman on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (15:45)

“People are judgmental. People that don’t know, you know? I don’t want anyone to look at me as the ex-con. I want them to look at me as the person I am today.” Bilal Chatman on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Prisoner Re-Entry (16:13)




Works Cited

Oliver, J. (Writer), & Hosickson, J. (Director). (2015). Prisoner Re-Entry [Television series episode] In T. Carvell (Executive Producer), Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. New York City, NY: HBO.