Cal State L.A. Social Work Graduate Student Helps Aging Vets Cope
Los Angeles, CA - Through an innovative project to teach social work graduate students about working with older adults, Cal State L.A. social work major Desmonette Hazly (Los Angeles resident) and a student from UCLA, Maria Carpiac, have taken the lead in establishing a comprehensive care clinic at the Veteran's Administration (VA) Medical Center, West Los Angeles. According to Hazly, the new clinic is designed "to provide extensive health education and social support for an aged population that is increasingly utilizing the emergency room and other urgent care services for non-emergency issues."
"Typically, these are socially-isolated elders who are having difficulty managing the chronic medical conditions that come with aging," says Elizabeth Heck, coordinator of the geriatric social work internship at the VA. Under the direction of Dr. Steven Castle, the clinic utilizes a team approach in providing a holistic method of educating and meeting the complex needs of older adults. Physicians, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and psychologists collaborate to address the issues that the clinic participants feel are important to their well-being.
Hazly states, "An important component of the clinic is the social support that the participants receive from the medical staff and most importantly the support they receive from their peers. Participants begin to realize that they are not alone and that there are others who are experiencing some of the same situations they are trying to cope with. They develop friendships and camaraderie that enhance their quality of life and puts them on the path to improved health."
According to the National Association of Social Workers, as many as 70,000 new social workers will be needed to serve older adults and their families by the year 2020. With current medical advances, people are living longer but not necessarily healthier or happier lives. The impact on the demographics and the social infrastructure to manage older adults and their social needs is staggering. To meet this challenge, Cal State L.A. has joined forces with the Southern California Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium (GSWEC) to create a new model for training social work practitioners in the field of geriatrics.
"The consortium strives to develop student interest and enhance recruitment in the fields of social work and geriatrics," says Jo Ann Damron-Rodriguez, co-principal investigator of the GSWEC.
Hazly is one of three students from Cal State L.A. participating in the Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium (GSWEC), which has received $479,000 in funding from the John A. Hartford Foundation and $450,000 from the Archstone Foundation. The other Cal State L.A. students are Zoila Nova and Shirley Maalouf. Through the leadership of Partners in Care Foundation, the GSWEC includes a collaboration of four university social work programs (Cal State L.A., CSU Long Beach, USC and UCLA) along with four service agencies that have particular expertise in serving older adults (VA, Huntington Senior Care Network, Jewish Family Services and the Center for Healthy Aging).