The percentage of Americans over the age of 65 is rapidly escalating. As more and more people live longer and the Baby Boomers enter their golden years, the number of elderly is on the increase. Indeed, the percentage of Americans over the age of 65 is quickly growing, accounting for over 22 percent of the population by 2030, with the majority of those in this age group being over 85…
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The increase in the number of elderly necessitates an increase in the number of social workers equipped to deal with the specific challenges of the elderly. However, at this point, those social workers currently working in the field note that there is a desperate shortage in the number of social workers who have the specialized knowledge and skills required to care for the elderly population.
As already noted, the increase in longevity of life has created unique challenges that the social work field must prepare to meet. According to one woman interviewed, the lack of proper training in the field of social work for the elderly has contributed to the problem. Further, she notes that many social work programs lack the faculty with training in dealing with aging. Without formalized training in aging, many social workers are unprepared to face the challenges of dealing with an elderly population.
Moreover, economic factors have also contributed to this social problem. A lack of funding from the federal government has only compounded the problems. Even as the number of social workers needs to deal with this population has increased, the availability of government sponsored training programs in this field has decreased. Most of those social workers in the field interviewed cited fiscal constraints as a major barrier to the adequate training of social workers for aging. In addition to governmental cutbacks and lack of funding, the inadequate compensate for those social workers who do decide to work with the elderly population has also compounded the problem. The field of social work concerned with aging is the lowest paying field of practice in the social work profession. These economic concerns are of importance to social workers who do choose to work in the field, and they must be prepared to meet these challenges head on.
III. Roles and Responsibilities of Social Workers in Aging
Those social workers who do confront these economic and social challenges and decide to work with the elderly population have very specific roles to play in helping this sector of the population. According to those interviewed, working with the elderly presents the social worker with unique challenges and opportunities. The social worker must be prepared to provide counseling services to not only the elderly themselves, but the must also help the family of these patients accept and understand the problems faced by their family members. When counseling the elderly, the social worker's duties necessitate active involvement in a variety of aspects of the person's life. One social worker interviewed spent much of their time encouraging their clients to receive adequate medical attention and diagnosis, then counseled these clients to help them deal with any medical issues they may have had.
The social worker's duties when working with the elderly encompasses a wide range of responsibilities that includes not only counseling but also active involvement in the lives of their clients. In many cases they serve as advocates to the elderly, helping them to live independently
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