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Resources to support social work with older people.

Gerontological social work is a specialist area concerned with maintaining and enhancing the quality of life and wellbeing of older people and their families and with promoting independence, autonomy, and dignity.

Most older service users who have contact with social workers have complex needs and/or are at the end of life. In these contexts social work’s focus is about providing appropriate care and security and offering a range of direct support to the older person and their family/key support networks.

Our practice tools for social work with older people centres on the case study of Don and Madge, a retired couple dealing with the consequences of ageing.

The case study moves through seven time periods as their circumstances change and the responsibilities for caring develop.

The scenario for this case study is designed to explore some of the complex issues associated with increasing frailty and escalating care and support needs in late life. It does not look at safeguarding or capacity as these topics are well covered in existing guidance. Instead the focus is on vital but neglected aspects of practice: the psycho-social and physical processes that underlie many of the experiences and challenges of late life; and the relational skills needed for practice that promotes prevention and well-being as required by the Care Act 2014. The case study draws on research to develop practitioners’ understanding of how complex and intersecting factors may lead to crises in late life and awareness of the evidence base for effective social work interventions.

The case study was developed and written by Gero (g)8, a group of social work academics engaged in research and teaching in gerontology and gerontological social work in UK universities. Members of G8 are all qualified social workers with a strong commitment to promoting and enhancing professional practice with older people and their families, primarily through developing research and resources to support social work practitioners and students working in this area.