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Social Work and Aging Updates

Sandra Edmonds Crewe, professor at the Howard University School of Social Work, served on the steering committee for and presented at the Workshop on Research Gaps and Opportunities for Exploring the Relationship of the Arts to Health and Well-Being in Older Adults in September in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by the National Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health, and National Endowment for the Arts.

Edmonds Crewe said she was responsible for assembling a panel to discuss the relationship of aesthetics and design factors to health and quality of life related outcomes of older adults in long-term care and assisted living residence.

Her presentation highlighted the importance of mindfulness in creating environments that could extend the independence of residents and assist them with adjusting to declines in cognitive and physical functioning.

“I emphasized the importance of designs that foster social contact versus social isolation,” Edmonds Crewe said. “I also addressed the importance of a built environment that helps to decrease depression, anxiety and confusion related to the multiple losses experienced by many older persons when they relocate to unfamiliar environments.”

The presentation also addressed the importance of recognizing the cultural diversity of residents and using the awareness of culture to design and decorate the living and community areas. A video archive of the entire September workshop is available at www.arts.gov/research/Older-Adults/index.html

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The Joint Commission is expected to launch changes in its Long-Term Care Accreditation program this month and to implement the changes in July.

In the fall of 2011, the Joint Commission began the Long-Term Care Reinvention Project to keep pace with changes in long-term care and increase the value of accreditation. NASW, as a member of the Joint Commission’s LTC Professional and Technical Advisory Committee, participated in the LTC Reinvention Project.

Lisa Cox, who is an associate professor of social work and gerontology at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and research chair for the college’s Center on Successful Aging, has served as the LTC PTAC representative, along with Chris Herman, senior practice associate at NASW.

Cox said she collaborates with Herman to review, discuss and prepare responses to the Joint Commission’s LTC PTAC on a range of policies relevant to the care of residents in long-term care settings across the U.S. Together they have written comments and contributed suggestions during conference calls on proposed changes to LTC accreditation standards —  including person-centered care standards and standards addressing resident rights and responsibilities — and National Patient Safety Goals,  thereby influencing the standards revision process prior to actual adoption.

“Chris and I have the honor and privilege of advocating for patient issues and long-term care systems issues from a person-in-environment and strengths perspective,” Cox said. “Social work representation is important on the PTAC calls and policy changes because our worldview is one that empathetically sees long-term-care patient issues from a wider lens than just pills and insurance coverage polices.”

NASW members can visit www.jointcommission.org/accreditation/long_term_care.aspx for additional information concerning changes to the Joint Commission’s Long-Term Care Accreditation Program.

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The Elder Justice Coordinating Council hosted its first meeting in Washington, D.C. in October.

The council is a result of the Elder Justice Act, which was enacted into law as an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.  The council has a specific purpose to foster coordination throughout the federal government on elder abuse issues and make recommendations on improving that coordination.

“It is essential to have federal leadership around elder abuse as an issue, and finally, with the Elder Justice Coordinating Council we are beginning to see some permanent and focused leadership at that level,” said Georgia Anetzberger, president of the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.

“Social workers are active in the field of elder abuse in many ways, from initiating research to understand the problem,” she said.

Since the 1950s, social workers have been concerned about abuse, neglect and exploitation as it affects vulnerable older people, and that interest and commitment to stopping the problem continues through today, she noted.

“Recommendations from the Elder Justice Coordinating Council may result in such measures as better data collection and sharing among federal agencies; more and targeted funding for research, demonstration projects and services to victims; and improved detection of the problem in publicly funded residential care facilities,” Anetzberger said.

In 2014, the council is expected to send to Congress a report of its elder abuse–related activities, accomplishments and recommendations.

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