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Book Reviews   |    
Gerontological Social Work Practice: Issues, Challenges, and Potential
Reviewed by Susan Beerman, M.S., M.S.W.
Psychiatric Services 2004; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.55.1.91
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edited by Enid Opal Cox, D.S.W., Elizabeth S. Kelchner, M.S.W., A.C.S.W., and Rosemary Chapin, Ph.D., M.S.W.; New York, Haworth Press, 2001, 204 pages, $24.95 softcover

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This is a well-researched compilation of articles that suggest that we have only begun to understand the impact and universality of the eldercare situation. The authors of these articles refer to a world in which people are staying healthier longer and in which medical science astounds us with new life-sustaining discoveries. It is a world in which it is becoming increasingly common for people to live independently well into their eighties and nineties. This new and growing challenge will force us to expand our creativity, knowledge, and know-how.

Tackling this new world will require carefully trained and educated social workers and other health care professionals in the needs and wants of an aging population. Consider the fact that millions of baby boomers will be tomorrow's elderly. This is a unique generation of individuals who are more educated and more independent than the generations before them and who constitute a strong and driving force in the political arena. Yet, as they age, they will face many of the chronic and oppressive illnesses faced by previous generations. They will have housing issues, insurance dilemmas, and difficult end-of-life decisions. According to the authors of the articles in this volume, it is time to face this problem through research, education, and social work practice.

Gerontological Social Work Practices: Issues, Challenges, and Potential explores and raises questions about some difficult issues, such as mistreatment of elderly persons, mental health, and death and dying. The authors are very clear that the future of eldercare lies in a clear, sensitive, and comprehensive understanding of the strengths of the older adult, the person's ability to make independent decisions, and his or her value and worth in society. As Chapin and Cox state in an article titled "Changing the Paradigm: Strengths-Based and Empowerment-Oriented Social Work With Frail Elders," "the stories of older adults who have lived life fully until their deaths, despite physiological and resource decline, need to be heard again and again." It is the right to self-determination guided by an educated, supportive, and resourceful professional that will allow elderly persons to live and die in dignity.

The true value of this book lies in the writers' understanding that the universal "we" has a problem. Eldercare issues globally affect the family, business, health care, politics, and the quality of life of every individual. Hopefully, this book will ignite an interest among social workers, nurses, and teachers to embrace a field that is continually growing even as "we" may want to close our eyes.

Ms. Beerman is a geriatric consultant and lecturer and the coauthor of Eldercare 911: The Caregiver's Complete Handbook for Making Decisions.

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