Practice of Social Work with Older Adults

Insights and Opportunities for a Growing Profession

By Mary Kaplan, M.S.W., LCSW

ISBN 978-1-938870-86-6
6 x 9 paper
224 pages
Copyright © 2020

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Product Description

With the rapid growth of the aging population, the need for geriatric social workers is at an all-time high. This resource for students and practitioners addresses the critical demand head-on by illuminating the many rewards, challenges, and opportunities for social workers to provide counseling, care management, and support to older adults. Written from a practice perspective by a geriatric social worker with a long and varied career in the field, this text illustrates strategies and interventions that move theory into real-world social work settings.

In her 40-year career, author Mary Kaplan has participated in every aspect of geriatric social work, including direct services, administration, teaching, research, advocacy, and more. She describes key aspects of the social work role in settings ranging from hospital and community to residential, clinical, and academic. Through personal stories and observations, she also provides a valuable glimpse into each potential career path.

With features that include key points for each chapter and more than 20 stories to use for discussion, this instructive overview of the profession covers

  • A brief history of gerontological social work and its origins
  • Critical issues and challenges faced by older adults
  • How social work addresses elder well-being, from mental health and substance abuse to living environments, family dynamics, economic resources, and more
  • The ethical principles that guide this work
  • Important aspects of diversity, including ethnicity, economic status, and gender identity

Useful as an introductory text for geriatric social work students and as a career guide for practicing professionals, this comprehensive look into the growing field of geriatric social work will encourage readers to choose this rewarding career path.

Format: E-book
e-ISBN: 978-1-938870-87-3

E-book available through:

About the Author


SECTION I: The Development of Geriatric Social Work

  1. The Evolution of the Social Work Profession and Geriatric Social Work

SECTION II: Basic Principles of Working with Older Adults

  1. Characteristics of Older Adults
  2. Skills and Personal Resources of the Social Worker
  3. Ethical Issues in Social Work Practice with Older Adults
  4. Effective Counseling Theories and Orientation

SECTION III: Issues and Challenges in Late Life

  1. Mental Health
  2. Mental Competence
  3. Social Support
  4. Economic Resources
  5. Living Environments
  6. Substance Abuse

SECTION IV: Geriatric Social Work: Settings and Opportunities

  1. Medical Settings
  2. Long-Term Care
  3. Geriatric Care Management
  4. Community Agencies and Services
  5. Psychiatric Settings
  6. Academia, Advocacy, and Public Policy

EPILOGUE: The Future of Geriatric Social Work


The Practice of Social Work with Older Adults (Excerpt) by Health Professions Press on Scribd

Mary KaplanMary Kaplan, M.S.W., is a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in health care and geriatrics for over four decades as a clinician, administrator, educator, consultant, and community activist. An instructor since 1971, Kaplan served for 13 years as Director of the Student Internship Program at the University of South Florida School of Aging Studies, where she taught courses on mental health and aging, geriatric care management, and Alzheimer’s disease. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from State University of New York at Buffalo and a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University.

Kaplan is the author/coauthor of three books on dementia care (Behaviors in Dementia, Special Care Programs for Persons with Dementia, and Clinical Practice with Caregivers of Dementia Patients), as well as two additional books on African American history (Solomon Carter Fuller: Where My Caravan Has Rested and The Tuskegee Veterans Hospital and Its Black Physicians).

The author has conducted workshops and presentations throughout the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia. Having retired from professional practice, she serves as a mental health volunteer for the American Red Cross.

3 reviews for Practice of Social Work with Older Adults

  1. Administrator

    “Based on over 40 years of experience, Mary Kaplan has produced a wonderful book providing a unique view of the field of Geriatric Social Work. As a pioneer in the development of social work practice with older adults and development of innovative approaches such as Alzheimer’s Special Care Units, as well as years of clinical and advocacy experience in diverse settings, Kaplan provides both a big picture view of working with older adults and detailed information relevant to clinical practice, teaching, advocacy, and public policy. Besides being filled with essential factual information and tips for clinical practice, the book communicates the joy and fulfillment that can come with a lifetime of devotion to the special needs of older adults and their families. It is filled with inspiring case studies that illustrate the challenges and rewards that come with a focus on Geriatric Social Work. The book will instill a sense of pride in the many advances in the field of social work as a whole, and provides students with a vision of the many steps ahead for social work and related professions to address the challenges of a rapidly aging population. I highly recommend this book both for students and experienced social workers who want to contribute to the ongoing struggles of fighting ageism, improving clinical practice, and promoting much-needed advocacy for policies that provide services and supports for older adults and their families.”

    —William E. Haley, Ph.D., Professor, School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida

  2. Administrator

    The Practice of Social Work with Older Adults by Mary Kaplan provides the reader with deep insights about the experience of helping people who are in late life in a truly unique and distinct way. Mary Kaplan integrates her unique and distinct perspectives—from 41 years in practice—and from the numerous classes of emerging social workers she taught about the nuances of gerontological social work. This book provides a clear vision of policy-based practice by illuminating how social work practice in the field of aging has been informed by evolving programs that provide services for older people and thereby available interventions. Readers have the opportunity to consider the essential skills, values and principles of successful and effective gerontological social work. Understanding the difference between issues and challenges that are found across different settings and populations is critical to help social workers understand the nuances of practice with subpopulation of older adults. Finally, the author presents a view of the future, which beckons and encourages social workers with skill and insight to join the ranks who will be caring for our own older adults with compassion and energy. The Practice of Social Work with Older Adults is a book full of important life lessons and a preview of the potential for meaningful social work practice with older people and their families.”

    —Deborah Waldrop, PhD, LMSW, Professor, University at Buffalo School of Social Work

  3. Administrator

    “Expertly written, organized and presented, The Practice of Social Work with Older Adults is an ideal textbook for geriatric social work curriculums and as a career guide for both aspiring and practicing professionals. Providing a comprehensive and descriptive survey of the growing field of geriatric social work, The Practice of Social Work with Older Adults is especially and unreservedly recommended for community social services departments, as well as college and university library Social Work collections.”
    —Midwest Book Review

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