Social Work in Action (November 2014)

Social worker and NASW member Judith Peres is urging social workers and others to read the newly released Institute of Medicine report Dying In America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.

Peres and social workers June Simmons, president and CEO of Partners in Care Foundation; Fernando Torres-Gil, professor of Social Welfare and Public Policy and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at the University of California, Los Angeles, Luskin School of Public Affairs; and Monsignor Charles Fahey, the Marie Ward Doty Professor of Aging Studies Emeritus at Fordham University, were part of the 21-member multidisciplinary IOM Committee on Approaching Death: Addressing Key End of Life Issues.

The social workers helped ensure that the document included the critical role social workers play in assisting people and their families near the end of life, Peres said.

“The report’s challenge to redesign the care system to explicitly incorporate social services is centrally important to improving how we die in this country,” she said. “Social Workers are trained to be client advocates and change agents, and can assist in mediating the prevailing challenges and barriers that individuals and their families face in understanding, seeking and obtaining hospice, palliative and end- of-life care.”

Peres noted that public policies concerning hospice, palliative and end-of-life care fail to reflect the diversity of values and preferences that frame individual and family concerns.

Social workers have the perfect opportunity to advocate at both the micro and macro levels for public policy in hospice and palliative care, she said.

“Social workers are in the perfect position to end the dichotomy between micro and macro practice and use the rich information in the report to help ensure that people and their families receive competent and compassionate end-of-life care no matter who they are or where they are, rich or poor, young or old, in accord with their values, informed preferences and goals,” Peres said.

Four social workers have been selected for the Health and Aging Policy Fellows program for 2014-2015. The program gives professionals in health and aging the opportunity to receive the experience and skills necessary to make a positive contribution to the development and implementation of health policies that affect older Americans.

The social workers selected are Heidi Allen, Amanda Lehning, Rick Selvik and Patricia Yu.

According to NASW Senior Practice Associate Chris Herman, this is possibly the highest number of social workers selected for the program in a given year since its 2008 inception.

Social worker Ann Wyatt presented at an Institute of Medicine meeting in September titled “Innovative Practices in Care for People with Advanced Dementia.”

Wyatt discussed a program she directs for the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The project, “Palliative Care for Advanced Dementia: Training and Implementation,” is being conducted with nursing homes and hospices in the city.

The IOM meeting was the second of three convened in accordance with the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. The first meeting focused on research related to advanced dementia care, and the final meeting will address policy.

The National Plan was created in 2012 as the result of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which was passed in 2011. The plan is updated annually, and in 2013 the update called for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to contract with the IOM to convene experts on dementia care.

The IOM will draw on the input received during the three meetings to present recommendations to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and to the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services.

NASW and the School Social Work Association of America signed a memorandum of understanding in an effort to identify areas for collaboration to advance school social work and the interests of school social workers.

Among the listed agreements are that each organization share information, provide updates and identify potential joint ventures, and that SSWAA will endorse the NASW Standards/or School Social Work Services.

The two organizations also agree to explore ways to facilitate better collaboration between state and local affiliates of each organization as well as explore strengthening and promoting National School Social Work certification.

NASW member Risa Breckman and social worker Bonnie Brandl co-authored, with Marie-Therese Connolly, the Elder Justice Roadmap report.

The report, developed with the support of the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, identifies priorities and opportunities for both the private and public sectors to respond to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Subject matter experts who contributed to the Elder Justice Roadmap include NASW members Georgia Anetzberger, Carol Dayton and Evelyn Laureano; and social workers Bill Benson, Tameshia Bridges-Mansfield, Michael Marcus, Debra Miller, and Mary Twomey.

The report will inform the ongoing work of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, a federal interagency initiative established by the Elder Justice Act within the 2010 health care reform law.

The council recently adopted eight recommendations to improve elder abuse awareness, prevention and response.

You can also download the council’s Eight (8) recommendations for Increased Federal Involvement in Addressing Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation. (PDF)

NASW is sponsoring the Hospice Foundation of America’s 22nd annual Living With Grief® program in 2015, titled The Longest Loss: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

NASW members Nancy Pearce and Kathie Supiano will participate on an expert panel within the program, which launches in April and can be accessed by DVD or online.

Hospice Foundation offers information and resources on Grief Support.

Participants can earn three continuing education credits, approved by NASW.

HFA’s 2014 program, “Living with Grief: Helping Adolescents Cope with Loss,” features NASW member Stacy Orloff and is also worth three CE credits.

NASW has partnered with the Movement Advancement Project to publish “Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being LGBT in America.”

Naomi Goldberg, the lead author, said the report documents how inequitable laws harm the economic well-being of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

These include: enabling legal discrimination in jobs, housing, credit and other areas; failing to recognize LGBT families, both in general and across a range of programs and laws designed to help American families; and creating barriers to safe and affordable education for LGBT students and the children of LGBT parents.

“Due to misconceptions and stereotypes, many are under the impression that LGBT people are affluent and live in urban settings,” Goldberg said. “In fact, the opposite is true. This report looks at the broader question of how anti-LGBT laws threaten LGBT people’s economic security and drive many into a devastating cycle of poverty. We are pleased to work with NASW on this.”

Evelyn Tomasewski, a senior policy adviser at NASW, said the report may not seem at first glance like a social work document, but it’s a blueprint to address economic injustice and poverty.

“The data is clear,” she said. “This document provides evidence of what we as social workers have known and long fought for.”

The Movement Advancement Project is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

For more information, visit the Movement Advancement Project.