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Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written for the health care professional.

* This is the Professional Version. *

Introduction to Social Issues in the Elderly

By Daniel B. Kaplan, PhD, MSW, Institute of Geriatric Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College ; Barbara J. Berkman, DSW, PhD, Boston College Graduate School of Social Work;Columbia University School of Social Work;Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholars Program

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Patient Education

Social issues influence an elderly person’s risk and experience of illness as well as a health care practitioner’s ability to deliver timely and appropriate care.

A social history helps members of the interdisciplinary team evaluate care needs and social supports. It should include questions about the following:

  • Family and marital or companion status

  • Living arrangements

  • Financial status

  • Work history

  • Education

  • Typical daily activities (eg, how meals are prepared, what activities add meaning to life, where problems may be occurring)

  • Need for and availability of caregivers (to help plan care)

  • History of trauma, losses, and coping strengths

  • History of substance use and legal issues

  • Patients’ own caregiving responsibilities (which may make patients reluctant to report their own symptoms lest their symptoms or any resulting interventions interfere with caregiving)

* This is the Professional Version. *