The Journey and Beyond

Age is defined in four categories: chronological age, biological age, psychological age, social age. Due to age, the body starts shutting down, leaving many elderly disabled. People 65+ are in the lowest income quartile and three times more likely to experience disability than those in the highest quartile. (class notes)

Activities of Daily Living – there are six measurers to measure this by. Feeding one’s self, using the toilet without assistance, bathing without assistances, getting dress by one’s self, getting out of bed or a chair by one’s self, and getting around inside of the home without help. (class notes)


Social workers help the elderly communicate their needs with healthcare providers. Scheduling appointments and coordinating transportation can be aided by social workers. Social workers are advocates for the elderly, making sure these services are provided. They also help the elderly properly pay for healthcare visits in regards to medicare and medicaid. (DiNitto and McNeece, 2008)

Hospice is the philosophy of care. Hospice is given to someone with six months or less to live. This extends beyond elderly people. Anyone who is expected to not survive beyond six more months is given hospice care. (Hopkins, S., guest speaker 2016)

People in hospice care are required to accept a nurse’s care at least once every two weeks. The idea is to make someone more comfortable in their process of dying, which is why doctors will treat any other illnesses that come up. While hospice is not one singular, specific place, it’s where people will feel comfortable in their final days. (Hopkins, S., guest speaker 2016)


Sources: Class notes – Professor John Vassello, MSW; guest speaker S. Hopkins (2016); and DiNitto, D. M., & McNeece, C. A. (2008). Social Work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession. Chicago, Il.: Lyceum Books, (3rd Edition).


1/4 – According to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicide rates in America increased by 24% from 1999 to 2014.

1/2 – About half of all Americans (46%) endure some form of mental illness at some point in their life.

1/2 – Half of mental disorders start to show by age 14.

3/4 – 75% of mental disorders start to show by age 24.

?/100 – Due to stigma, it’s hard to make sure everyone with a mental health disorder is treated. Misdiagnosis makes it harder to make sure those who are treated, are treated properly. (class notes)


2x – Mental health disorders are often comorbid with substance abuse. People can develop a substance abuse issue while trying to self-medicate in order to alleviate suffering from their symptoms. The stigma of mental health can fuel this, making it harder for people to step forward. Being labeled as ‘psycho’ and taking ‘crazy pills’ just makes this worse.

3x – Suicide of young people (15-24) has essentially tripled since 1960. 6.3% of American adolescents from 2005-2010, aged 12-19, take psychotropic medications. 5.9% of young people taking psychotropic medication were male and 6.7% were female. Males were more likely to take ADHD drugs whereas females were more likely to take antidepressants. (CDC)

100/100 – All of us can do our part to educate people about mental health to increase awareness and decrease stigma. (class notes)



Class notes – Professor John Vassello, MSW

DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books.;2010

The Person Behind the Disability

Approximately 5% of Americans have a developmental disability. (DiNitto and McNeece, 2008, p. 220)


The World Health Organization defines disabilities as the lack of ability or restriction to perform an activity in the range or manner that is normal for humans. A developmental disability is chronic, permanent, and a severe enough condition of physical or mental impairment that requires lifelong professional services from many disciplines. It occurs before age 21, and results in major functional limitation in the areas of learning, self-care, self-sufficiency economically, language, mobility, and capacity for independent living. The term started appearing in federal legislation in the 1970s. (DiNitto and McNeece, 2008, p. 217-218)

Geraldo Rivera’s expose on the abusive practices that occurred in the Willowbrook State School, an institution for the mentally handicapped, sparked a discussion on how the mentally disabled were treated. Respecting the humanity of a person rather than seeing as their disability is the first step in the proper treatment of those who are different than us. (class notes)


In 1996, only 22% of BSW and MSW programs offered training on disabilities. 4% of those programs focused on specialization for working with people with disabilities. (DiNitto and McNeece, 2008, p. 234)

Instead of institutionalizing all people despite their level of impairment, the Chronic Care Model can help people find the appropriate care they need.



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

Understanding the Role of Social Work in Schools

Adjusting to school and its learning environment can be tough for children. Emotional, social, and developmental obstacles affect students’ lives, and family issues and a strained economy contribute to stress experienced by students. The No Child Left Behind Act put pressure on teachers to get all students to pass, even those who were not ready. This put more pressure on students who were already struggling with handling school, increasing the need for social workers. (Diehl and Frey, 2008)


Students who meet with social workers have been shown to have a reduction in behavioral problems. In a study done by Diehl and Frey, students who saw social workers for a six month period had a noticeable reduction in behavior problems in school and at home. (Diehl and Frey, 2008)


Social workers are trained to deal with the hidden meaning in patterns. Low attendance, low grades, and bad behavior is more than just a poor student, it’s usually indicative of issues at home or bullying at school. Instead of solely punishing students who don’t perform to sufficient standards, a social worker will work with the student in order to find solutions to the problems they face, or at least help the students to learn how to cope with the issues. (class notes)


School social workers have a caseload of however many students are in the school. The need to be efficient with time is necessary, and helping students learn how to help themselves is equally important. Correcting problems quickly and helping students get back on track is goal of the job. The lack of resources and funding make the job tough, but getting through to the students makes the job rewarding. (guest speaker, Sam Bligen III, MSW, 2016)

Sources: Diehl, D., & Frey, A. (2008). Evaluating a Community-School Model of Social Work Practice. School Social Work Journal, 32(2), 2-17.

Pill ‘em and Bill ‘em, the Disease of Drug Addiction

Social workers encounter clients with substance abuse issues about half of the time, yet they don’t receive a large amount of training in the subject. They often rely on basic training to deal with the issue despite its tendency to intersect (like in the form of comorbidity). (class notes, John Vasello MSW)uslide-2

22.5 million people, 9% of the US population, have an issue with substance abuse. (Straussner, 127)

Drug-related deaths, such as overdosing and mixing drugs that don’t go together, have more than doubled since 1980. There are more deaths, illnesses, and disabilities from substance abuse than from any other form of preventable health conditions. One in four deaths are attributable to recreational substances like tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drug use. (NIDA)

Addiction is a disease, and relapse is a medical occurrence, not a personal failure. The relapse happens before the person starts using again. It starts with the thought that sobriety isn’t good enough, it’s the urge to use again and the thought that their lives require the drug to be pleasurable and manageable. (class notes, Mr. Merrit)Listicle6_6

Some of the drugs (methadone) used to wean people off of harder drugs (heroin) are addictive due to their narcotic nature, resulting in people being reliant on prescriptions for years. (class notes, Mr. Merrit)

Recognizing the signs, acknowledging you have a problem, and making the effort to change your situation is the first step in breaking the cycle of drug addiction and relapse. (class notes, John Vassello MSW)Addiction 3

Class Notes – John Vassello (MSW)

Straussner, S. (2012). Clinical Treatment of Substance Abusers: Past, Present and Future. Clinical Social Work Journal Clin Soc Work J, 40, 127-133.

The War at Home

War changes people. PTSD affects many people, including veterans. Veterans aren’t the only ones affected, active duty members also suffer from PTSD from what they’ve experienced in combat. PTSD is also not limited to what people have personally experience upon themselves, it also includes what they’ve witnessed. (class notes)

Sometimes PTSD can stem from witnessing horrible acts, such as having flashbacks to the men in the orange suits torturing civilians detailed in the graphic novel, “Walking Wounded.” It can also appear in the form of night terrors and needing to perform rituals, such as the woman needing to imagine the hook before she goes to sleep. (Morel and Gauvin, 2015)giphy (16)

PTSD interferes with daily life. It’s different than simply having an issues you’re upset about. PTSD severely impacts the life of people to the point where they shut down or become unable to integrate back into society. (Connie, guest speaker)

Self medication, such as using recreational drugs to cure their flashbacks and subdue the effects of their mental illness are often issues faced by those with PTSD. Removing the stigma from mental illness can help fight against this, as substance abuse is a serious issue. (Connie, guest speaker)

Understanding that PTSD sufferers are not crazy, simply unwell, is a step in the right direction. Counseling and possible medication is the way to move on. (class notes)Listicle5_title

References: Morel, O., Mael, & Gauvin, E. (2015). Haunted. In Walking wounded: Uncut stories from Iraq (pp. 8-62). New York, NY: NBM Publishing.

Supporting the Ill

According to the American Hospital Association, 75% of their hospitals have social workers. Medicine and social work first joined at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1905. “In 1915, medical social work was defined as a specific form of social case work focused on the relationship between disease and social maladjustment.” (class notes)images

Social workers make a doctor’s room a little less scary by adding the human touch to a room full of metal instruments and machinery. Social workers are helpful to in the medical field because they understand how to deal with patients and the emotional aftermath that usually follow after major surgery or cancer treatment. They are capable of walking patients through the steps needed to reach full recovery- physically and mentally. They understand that physical side effects of treatment can be far reaching, like how hair is more than just hair when it comes to a person undergoing chemo therapy. In a room full of unknown doctors and nurses who hop from room to room, social workers can provide comfort. Unlike friends and family, social workers are trained on how to provide relief and are educated on technique that help alleviate anxiety and other emotional stressors.Unknown-1

Social workers also provide support services to dying clients, the only healthcare professionals focused on the psychosocial aspects of death and dying. (Sheldon, 1993; Loscalzo & Zabora, 1996)56b70-tumblr_mznuhjoxls1ra3tvio1_r1_400

References: Class Notes

Marlene Belew Huff LCSW, PhD , Sherri Weisenfluh LCSW , Mindy Murphy MSW & Pamela J. Black MSW (2006) End-of-Life Care and Social Work Education, Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 48:1-2, 219-231, DOI: 10.1300/J083v48n01_15