Gerontological Social Work in 8 Quick Facts

Gerontological Social Workers address the biopsychosocial needs of elderly clients and their families.

This includes helping elderly individuals and their families to connect with resources within their community, coordinate care and access, assess functional capacity, examine needs, balance finances, and so much more.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this field of social work to grow by 25% between 2010 and 2020.

More specifically, Gerontological Social Work will expand the most within the healthcare arena. This is most likely due to the aging population of the huge Baby Boomer generation.

The primary goal of a Gerontological Social Worker is to promote the independence, autonomy, and dignity of their clients throughout the aging process.

On both the micro and macro levels, these social workers must address the unique challenges that elderly individuals face and must be knowledgeable of relevant legislation, policies, and social programs that affect the elderly.

Although everyone ages, not everyone ages equally.

• People at age 50 with less than a high school education have similar health to people at age 60 who hold college degrees.

White elderly individuals report having “very good” or “excellent” health almost twice as often as Black and Hispanic elders do.

1 in 8 Blacks and 1 in 4 Hispanics within the elderly population do not have private healthcare coverage, compared to only 1 in 14 Whites. Hispanics are the most likely group to not have at least one visit with a physician during a 2-year span.

As individuals age, cognitive functioning and health naturally declines as well.

Of people 70 years and older, nearly 10% live with moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Approximately 50% of individuals aged 70 or over living in institutions have moderate to severe cognitive impairment.

However, caring for elderly individuals with cognitive impairments is an extremely expensive burden.

As a nation, the US has spent approximately $18 billion total on care for elderly adults with cognitive impairments. On average, it costs individuals about $18,000 annually to care for an elderly person with dementia.

The risk of depression increases with age, but depression is treatable and is not a “normal” part of aging.

Of people ages 84 and younger about 15% suffer from depression, compared to nearly 20% of individuals ages 85 and older. Depression is more common among people who have another illness, especially an illness that limits their functioning or is chronic.

Depression is often under-treated among the elderly, because many assume it is a “natural reaction” to illnesses or life changes. Many older individuals hold this belief and consequently do not seek or accept help/treatment.


8 Quick Facts About Mental Health

1. The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual:

Realizes his or her own potential,

• Can cope with the normal stresses of life,

• Can work productively and fruitfully, and

• Is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

For even the average American, constantly maintaining good “mental health” can be quite difficult.

2. In any given year, 43.8 million adults experience some type of mental illness.

In America, approximately 10 million adults live with a serious mental illness.

3. Mental illnesses affect people from all walks of life. The prevalence of adults living with mental illnesses ranges from 13.9% among Asian American adults to 28.3% among American Indian adults.

Multicultural communities face many additional issues when it comes to mental illnesses. They are less likely to access or retrieve treatment, they often receive a lower quality of care, and frequently face high levels of stigma or cultural insensitivity.

4. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses in America, affecting about 42 million adults or about 18%.

In America, major depression affects 16 million adults or nearly 7%, bipolar disorder affects 6.1 million (2.6%), and schizophrenia affects 2.4 million, or every 1 in 100 adults.

5. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2014 nearly 8 million people suffered from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder.

Rates of comorbidity (the two disorders co-occurring) were the highest among adults between the ages of 26 to 49, affecting nearly 43% of people within this age range.

6. Having a serious mental illness increases the risk of developing chronic medical conditions.

American adults with serious mental illnesses live 25 years fewer on average.  This huge disparity is sadly due in large part to treatable medical conditions.

7. In the US, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall.  Among adolescents and young adults ages 10-24, it is the 3rd leading cause of death, and it is the 2nd leading cause of death among young adults ages 15-24.

Of children who die by suicide, over 90% suffered from a mental health condition.  Every day, between 18 to 22 veterans lose their life to suicide.

8. Individuals in the criminal justice system often struggle with mental illnesses as well.

About 20% of state and local prisoners have a mental health condition.  70% of youths in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition, and for over 20% of these youths their mental illness is serious.


7 Facts About School Social Work

1. School social workers are tasked with addressing the social and psychological issues that students face.

By helping students cope with and overcome their social and psychological struggles, school social workers strive to give children the best possible chance at succeeding within school.

2. School social workers provide services for students dealing with a wide range of difficulties.

From academic or attendance problems, to psychological or mental disabilities, to environmental problems such as homelessness and poverty, to sexual orientation and bullying, school social workers are very well equipped to handle nearly any situation that a student may be dealing with.

3. Counseling, crisis intervention, support groups, and prevention programs are common approaches used by school social workers.

These social workers must be highly skilled at creating innovative and creative solutions to complex problems, which allows them to find the best intervention for each student and situation to be successful.

4. School social workers are members of an interdisciplinary team that is critical to ensuring the success of students.

This team may consist of teachers, parents, school psychologists, administrators, local police, and other community members. School social workers and these team members work together for the success of each student, as well as to form disciplinary policies, provide support services, and crisis management.

5. The work of a school social worker extends far beyond the walls of a school.

School social workers make sure that students have a home life that is conducive to academic and social success. This can involve arranging transportation for necessary services, enrolling students in programs to provide adequate food or clothing, conducting home visits to ensure a safe home environment, or even contacting Child Protective Services if necessary.

6. School social workers often create programs and services to address the current needs of their school as a whole.

For example, school social workers may be responsible for giving anti-bullying lessons throughout the year as a preventative measure, or may hold drug awareness assemblies to deal with a rising drug problem.

7. The responsibilities of a school social worker can vary greatly depending on the location of the district and the needs of the students.

School social workers in a rural community may spend a lot of time conducting home visits, arranging transportation to services or bringing services to the community, and mending bonds within the community. On the other hand, a school social worker in an urban community may spend more time dealing with truancy, violence and drug prevention, and trauma.


Child Welfare Social Work

Every day in the United States, an average of 2,400 children experience child abuse. Child abuse or neglect kills about 3 children in the US every day.

In 2013, there were about 679,000 confirmed victims of child abuse and maltreatment. National rates for childhood maltreatment averaged at approximately 9 children per 1,000 in the population. State averages varied greatly, but some states had rates as high as nearly 20 children per 1,000.

The Child Welfare System aims to keep children safe and protect them from harm, as well as to provide necessary services to at-risk families to improve home conditions and stabilize family units.

The “Child Welfare System” has a very broad reach. It spans both private and public agencies, and relies heavily on other community systems as well. It includes Child Protective Services, foster care, family preservation services, adoption services, group homes, residential facilities, and kinship care services.

Agencies of Child Protection Services have an average staff size of 26 people. Of these, an average of only 3 staff held a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

In 2002, the National Association of Social Workers conducted a study which found that only 8% of social workers listed Child Welfare as their main area of practice.

Child Protective Services receives approximately 3.6 million referrals every year.

The most prevalent reason for referral to CPS is physical abuse, followed by sexual abuse, emotional neglect, emotional abuse, and physical neglect.

During 2013, about 402,000 children were enrolled in the foster care system. Throughout the year, nearly 255,000 children entered the system while 234,000 children exited the system.

About 88% of children who exited foster care during 2013 were discharged into a permanent home, including reunification with their family, adoption, or legal guardianship.

Mistreatment during childhood has lifelong effects. One study of 21-year-olds found that 80% of those who reported some type of childhood abuse met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder.

In addition to mental health effects, childhood maltreatment also puts individuals at higher risk for Intimate Partner Violence, substance use disorders, risky behavior, adolescent pregnancy, etc.


Click to access naswchildwelfarerpt062004.pdf

10 Substance Abuse

1. Each year in the US, more than 90,000 deaths occur related to illicit drug, prescription drug, and alcohol abuse, which equates to 1 in every 4 deaths.

Every year there are more substance abuse related deaths, illnesses, and disabilities than those of any other preventable health condition.

The number of deaths each year related to overdoses of heroine and prescription drugs has been increasing rapidly since 2000.

2. More than $700 billion is spent each year due to tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use and abuse.

These costs are related to healthcare, crime, and lost work productivity.

3. While teen use of cigarettes and alcohol has declined over the past 20 years, use of illicit drugs has remained constant among teens in grades 8 through 12.

A 2015 study found that nearly 25% of 12th graders had been using illicit drugs within the past month, in addition to 17% of 10th graders and 8% of 8th graders.

4. Environmental factors such as home environment and family support or peer support and school environment can greatly affect one’s risk of addiction.

Children are more likely to develop a drug problem if they have a family member who abuses drugs or alcohol or who participates in criminal activity.

Poor social skills and academic struggles can also increase a child’s risk of addiction. Even children with many protective factors against addiction can be influenced by drug-using peers.

5. The younger people begin using drugs, the increasingly more likely they are to develop serious problems related to drug use and abuse as an adult.

This may be related to drug effects on a still developing brain, or due to early vulnerability related to social and biological factors.

6. Drug abuse can chemically affect your brain’s pleasure center, causing you to feel reliant on the drug to feel normal.

When most drugs are taken, the brain experiences a rush of the neurotransmitter Dopamine, which is associated with the regulation of emotion, motivation, feelings of pleasure, and movement.

Drugs can release anywhere from 2 to 10 times more dopamine than is normally released by the brain during naturally pleasurable activities. The brain soon adjusts its normal dopamine levels to compensate, making once-enjoyable activities much harder to remain pleasurable.

7. The implementation of research-based prevention programs, such as by parents, educators, or community leaders, can significantly reduce the likelihood of early tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use.

Because addiction is so difficult to stop and cope with, the best treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is to prevent abuse in the first place, especially among youth.

8. Yet in 2009, only 11% of people who needed treatment for a substance abuse problem with illicit drugs or alcohol actually received treatment at a specialty facility.

Most entering treatment during this time were seeking treatment of alcohol abuse. Heroin and opiates made up the largest portion of drug-related admissions into treatment facilities.

9. Behavioral therapies are especially helpful in treating addiction, through modifying one’s attitudes and behaviors regarding their drug use.

Behavioral therapies combined with treatment medications can increase the effectiveness of such medications, and increase the amount of time the individual remains in treatment.

1o. With proper treatment, skills, and support, addiction can be managed and does not have to be a lifelong sentence.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy is effective in quickly helping the client to motivate oneself to change their behaviors and to agree to treatment.

Contingency Management focuses on rewarding clients for remaining drug free and participating actively in treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy empowers clients to recognize, avoid, and cope with situations that may increase their cravings or desire to use.

Family Therapy addresses family interactions and dynamics that may not be conducive to the client avoiding drug use and remaining sober.


Veterans and Mental Health Needs

In the United States there are about 23.4 million veterans, 2.2 million military personnel, and 3.1 million immediate family members of these individuals.

Approximately 20% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from either Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Major Depression.

About 20% of Iraq or Afghanistan veterans report experiencing a Traumatic Brain Injury during their deployment.

Traumatic Brain Injuries can lead to a wide array of additional problems, including but not limited to: cognition problems (thinking, memory, and reasoning); sensory processing difficulties; problems with expressive or receptive communication; changes in personality or behavior; lessened inhibition of impulses.

Over 7% of US veterans met the diagnostic criteria for a Substance Use Disorder between 2004 and 2006.

However, of returning service members who need mental health care, only about 50% of veterans seek treatment. Of those who do seek care, only half of them receive treatment that is adequate.

That means that only approximately 25% of service members who return with mental health needs get the care that they need and deserve.

In one year, Mental Health disorders and Substance Use disorders hospitalized more veterans than any other ailment.

Approximately 40% of all troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are eligible for behavioral healthcare resources through the US Department of Veteran Affairs.

However, many military personnel and their families are unwilling or unable to access these available resources, often due to fear of discrimination. Others choose not to use these services is because they fear that receiving mental health treatment may damage their (or their spouse’s) military career.

Compared to their peers, children of serving military personnel have significantly more emotional difficulties related to school, family, and peers.

In 2011, the overall unemployment rate was 9.1%, but veteran joblessness was at a rate of nearly 12%.

About 11% of the US adult homeless population are veterans, most commonly younger veterans.

Female veterans are the fastest-growing subset of the population of homeless veterans.


8 Facts About Medical Social Work

1. Medical or healthcare social workers can take the role of case managers, patient navigators, and therapists.

2. Social workers in the medical and healthcare field can be found in hospitals, clinics, or outpatient health centers.

Hospital social workers review new admissions, handle patient discharges, lead patients to relevant resources, and sometimes deal with advanced directives or end of life planning. They often work with a wide variety of patients with very different needs.

In clinics and outpatient settings, healthcare social workers help to coordinate a wide range of necessary services. When dealing with complex illnesses, especially those of children, these social workers often work with and counsel the whole family.

3. Medical social workers often have to deal with crises, especially within emergency departments.

These interventions often require giving counseling or therapy, and social works may need to diagnose and/or treat psychological conditions.

4. Social workers in the medical field are often vital members of interdisciplinary teams of healthcare workers.

Through working with doctors, nurses, psychologists or psychiatrists, and other health professionals, medical social workers aim to ensure that each patient’s social and emotional needs are being addressed and considered.

5. Healthcare social workers are responsible for representing the “person-in-environment” perspective.

This means they must recognize all the factors in a patient’s life that can influence their health and their treatment, and advocate for all of the patient’s needs in reference to these factors.

6. Patient education and increasing health literacy are key responsibilities of healthcare social workers.

Social workers often educate patients in: understanding their illness; treatment options and consequences; the roles of each member of their health care team; levels of healthcare; community resources.

 7. Medical social workers are often tasked with addressing the financial issues their patients face.

This includes helping to reduce the stress of the cost of medical care, help patients apply to relevant assistance programs, and arranging payment plans.

8. The field of healthcare social work is expected to grow by 34% between 2010 and 2020.

This impressive growth is notably contributed to by the aging population.

Works Cited

Click to access Hospitals.pdf

Start a Medical Social Work Career

American Homelessness in 10 Fast Facts

1. On one night in January, 578,424 people across the country were homeless, sleeping either outside or in an emergency/transitional housing program.

2. In 2014, the national rate of homelessness was 18.3 homeless individuals for every 10,000 people in the general population.

Rates of homelessness in each individual state ranged from only 7 per 10,000 in Mississippi, to a whopping 120 per 10,000 in Washington, DC.

3. In 2015, federal funding devoted to addressing homelessness totaled $4.5 billion, and this aid is slowly but surely helping!

4. From 2013 to 2014, our capacity for rapid re-housing increased substantially from under 20,000 beds to nearly 38,000 beds.

That’s an increase of about 90%!

5. Additionally, he number of permanent supportive housing beds nationwide also grew from under 16,000 beds to over 300,000 beds!

This increase was seen in 35 states across the country, but unfortunately 15 states saw a decrease in permanent supportive housing beds during the same time period.

6. The greatest decreases in homelessness have been seen among veterans and among people who experience chronic homelessness.

Since 2009, veteran homelessness has declined by 33%, and since 2007 chronic homelessness has decreased by 30%.

7. From 2013 to 2014, the number of homeless individuals in America decreased by 2.3% across the nation. However, this change was very different state to state.

Arizona, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wyoming decreased homelessness by over 20% in each state! Yet other states saw great increases in homelessness, namely Nevada (+25%) and Idaho (+18%).

8. Despite these steps forward, there is still much work to be done. In 2014 over 30% of homeless individuals across the country remained unsheltered (living somewhere unfit for human habitation) on any given night.

Many states are working hard to address unsheltered homelessness, such as South Dakota who decreased this population by 84% from 2013 to 2014. However, Idaho saw a 69% increase and Maine saw a 50% increase in this population.

9. Though the number of chronically homeless individuals has decreased overall, those who remain chronically homeless are unsheltered 63% of the time.

10. Of homeless “unaccompanied” children (anyone under 18 who is not attached to a family or household), in 2014 60% of these children were not in a shelter on any given night.

Of youths aged 18-24 who are unaccompanied, 46% were still left unsheltered.

Works Cited

The State of Homelessness in America 2015. (2015). National Alliance to End Homelessness. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from

7 Things Everyone Should Know about Intimate Partner Violence

1. What is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention characterizes IPV as a pattern of coercive behaviors within a relationship. These behaviors may include physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, social isolation, deprivation, and/or intimidation.

The World Health Organization defines IPV as any behavior within a relationship that physically, psychologically, or sexually harms those in the relationship.

There are four main types of abuse within IPV: physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression.

2. But what does IPV really look like?

Intimate partner violence happens in a lot of different ways, so it can look very different from relationship to relationship. This image not only describes the various types of abuse that can take place, but also serves as a powerful metaphor. The information is arranged like spokes on a wheel, so even if some types of abuse are not taking place or happen less frequently, the wheel still stays together and the wheel still turns. Abuse is abuse.

Violence wheel

3. Does it have to happen constantly to be considered IPV?

Absolutely not. In most cases, IPV happens in some sort of cycle (although the timing of the pattern can often be hard to predict). The phases of this cycle frequently look something like this:

The Honeymoon Phase

Both individuals love and depend on one another, and no abuse is taking place. If abuse has happened in the past, both individuals are acting as if it had never happened. The abuser may show signs of jealousy, but these may make the victim feel safe, important, and loved. The victim hopes the abuse is over with.

The Tension-Building Phase

Minor incidents begin to occur, and the victim often begins to feel as if they are walking on eggshells. The victim may believe it is their fault the abuser is upset, and spends time trying to figure out how to prevent any violence and how to keep the abuser calm.

The Explosive Phase

The building tension is released – this can happen in a variety of ways depending on the history violence within the relationship. The situation gets progressively worse, and the abuse is out of control. The victim may be terrorized for hours and in many different ways. The police are most often called during this phase, and the victim may even end up in the hospital.

The Reconciliation Phase

The abuser apologizes profusely to the victim, begging them to forgive them and insisting the abuse will never happen again. Because the victim is still in shock that the abuse happened, they are often vulnerable to accept the pleas of the abuser. Oftentimes, the abuse is denied and minimized (by both the victim and the abuser), and false resolution is made. And so the couple enters back into the honeymoon phase, and the cycle begins again.

4. Who does IPV affect? Is it common?

Unfortunately, IPV is much more common among both men and women than it should be. In the US, 35% of women and 28% of men have experienced some form of IPV in their lifetime. Severe physical IPV has affected 24% of women and 14% of men over their lifetime. Females most often experience multiple forms of IPV, while men most commonly experience only physical IPV.

5. Why do some people stay in abusive relationships?

Abusive relationships are very complicated, and are often very difficult to leave. If someone is or was in an abusive relationship, it is important to not judge them for “putting up” with it but to instead be supportive of their well-being and understanding of the difficult circumstances they are facing.

Some people who find themselves in IPV relationships do not realize that their relationship is unhealthy. They may think that their partner has a reason for lashing out in a such a way and they want to help fix them. For instance, their partner may have had a troubling childhood, may be dealing with stressful life events, may be under a lot of pressure, etc. They may think they are being strong by staying to help their partner through their problems, and may not even consider themselves a victim.

Other people may recognize the abuse but think that there is no way to get out of the relationship and away from the abuse. They may be too afraid to leave and possibly make the situation worse, they may not have the resources and support to leave the abuser, or the abuser may be a parent to their children and they do not want to break up the family.

There are other reasons people feel they must stay, they cannot leave, or they have no choice. But what’s important is not why someone stays; what’s important is how you can help them leave, move on, and start over. Support, kindness, and understanding are of the upmost importance to the physical and emotional well-being of victims of IPV.

6. How can I help myself or a loved one get out of a relationship with IPV?

If you find yourself in immediate danger, call 911 or leave right away.

Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).

Establish a code word to use with friends/family to discretely let them know you are in danger but near your abuser. Reach out to those you trust.

If you are injured, go to an emergency room to seek care and notify the doctor or hospital staff of your circumstances.

Find a local domestic violence shelter, where you can get temporary housing, food, and other assistance such as counseling and next steps.

7. Is there any way to stop IPV within our society?

The best way to combat IPV is education and advocacy. Make sure you know the signs of IPV, and teach your friends and family about the dangers of abusive relationships. Start open and honest conversations with those around you about healthy relationships, and be compassionate and understanding to those struggling with IPV. Know the resources offered by your community and don’t be afraid to reach out for help or advice for yourself or a loved one.

Work Cited

Intimate Partner Violence: Definitions. (2016, June 19). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
NISVS Summary Reports. (2014, September 17). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” Campaign. (2013, December 4). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from
Violence Against Women. (2015, September 30). Retrieved February 12, 2016, from