Social Work with Older Adults

Older adults are a vulnerable demographic that suffers from many issues and may require help depending on their circumstances. The assistance that older adults receive, however, should not overstep certain boundaries, as senior citizens can be resilient and independent. It is essential to find the right approach to older people and ensure their longevity without demeaning them, as it tends to happen when people act ageist. The Gray family case exemplifies a situation when an older person may require help, but there are different ways to offer it without compromising their independence. The following case study paper will analyze the Gray family case and suggest possible intervention scenarios.

The Gray family case has several relevant facts that impact its potential outcomes, and the one that deserves to be discussed in depth is Mrs. Gray living alone. Several studies highlight the connection between living alone and health risks, including adherence to taking medicine, which, in the case of Mrs. Gray, is low. According to Park (2018), several factors affect an older person’s adherence to medication, including awareness of side effects, medicinal satisfaction, the type of medical insurance, and demographics.

The case does not mention such factors, but they still could be present. Living alone is also linked with an increased rate of institutionalization and mortality, especially for people with chronic illnesses, as in Mrs. Gray’s case, who has hypertension and diabetes (Pimouguet et al., 2015). According to the case details, Mrs. Gray was only hospitalized, but her “elevated” health condition may put her at risk of long-term institutionalization. Another study by Kim (2017) also links a healthy quality of life with loneliness, which Mrs. Gray may be experiencing. The provided points may suggest that Mrs. Gray should not live alone.

Potentially, Mrs. Gray may have a choice of either moving in with her family or being institutionalized, put into a nursing home. The case states that her relationship with her daughter-in-law is strained, so living with the rest of her family would probably cause her stress. It may impact Mrs. Gray’s ability to perform daily and complex tasks, making her more reliant on her family (Moore et al., 2020). Studies demonstrate that there is a sex bias about caregiving, meaning that the responsibility of caring for Mrs. Gray can be potentially transferred to her daughter-in-law (Luppi & Nazio, 2019). It would further deteriorate their interrelation and impact other relationships within the family. However, staying with her family would allow Mrs. Gray to retain some independence, as she could have her personal space and be unrestrained in her activities. She would also be financially independent if she paid her family to take care of her or partially independent if she agreed to share the family budget. Although the case implies Mrs. Gray cannot stay with her family, her communication with them should still occur.

Being institutionalized would strip Mrs. Gray of her independence and probably cause her discomfort, as she would have to adjust to a new lifestyle and lose the essential things that constituted her previous life. There are also issues with the way older people are treated at such institutions, and Mrs. Gray may potentially be a victim of ageism from the personnel. Nonetheless, being a white woman puts her at a lesser risk of such abuse, and it is not as widespread as general restraints and abuse from other patients (Lachs & Pillemer, 2015).

As Mrs. Gray has several chronic illnesses and a history of depression, any aggravating factors should be avoided. Leaving the numerous disadvantages aside, some benefits staying at a nursing home would provide, and Mrs. Gray would be under constant care and watch. Overall, the solutions to the case should involve assisting Mrs. Gray without removing her independence and causing her additional distress.

The social worker would probably have to focus on the issue of Mrs. Gray not administrating her medicine as the main priority. The case implies that after her stabilization, she seems to be able to understand the importance of it, but given her chronic illnesses, at least reminders should be implemented. Those can be direct or call reminders from the friends, the family, or the social worker, or electronic reminders, depending on how technologically aware Mrs. Gray is. It could be important to raise Mrs. Gray’s technological awareness as technology contributes to resilience in elderly people, as it “can be used to make daily tasks easier, increase independence, and improve physical and emotional health” (Resnick et al., 2018, p. 26). The social worker should select the best way of reminding Mrs. Gray to take her medication depending on the circumstances. Regardless of how the procedure is organized, it is essential to prevent Mrs. Gray from experiencing another health-related incident.

As for those who may provide support to Mrs. Gray in general, there are several options, but the one that may affect her independence the least is informal support. It means “unpaid help given by friends, neighbors, and family” and manifests in many forms, including affection, companionship, assistance (Novak, 2018, p. 622). As Mrs. Gray has friends and is active in several organizations, she could use their help and knowledge to proceed with her troubles. If Mrs. Gray feels reluctant to ask for their help, the social worker might contact them in her stead. One’s family support is also vital, and a social worker could arrange meetings between Mrs. Gray and her son and grandchildren at her house. These meetings could be devoted to Mrs. Gray talking about herself, her past, her concerns, as it would make her feel like she matters. The social worker might also try to mend Mrs. Gray’s relationship with her daughter-in-law, especially if it is detrimental to the family visits. Altogether, there is room for sufficient informal support in Mrs. Gray’s case, which should be taken into consideration.

Mrs. Gray could also rely on community-based and paid services that have different levels of financing. Such services include adult daycare, senior centers, and home health care programs (Niles-Yokum & Wagner, 2019). These services allow older people to retain independence and rehabilitate after health complications, which is relevant in Mrs. Gray’s case (Novak, 2018). Mrs. Gray appears to possess finances independently of her family, so in case of informal support being unavailable, she could potentially use such services. Most of them would be provided to Mrs. Gray at her house at her convenience. She is also able to choose her caregiver, and several studies cited in this analysis imply that an older caregiver proves to be a better choice. Perhaps, considering that Mrs. Gray is a widow and does not live with someone of her age, that would be relevant in her case as well. Mrs. Gray’s income also makes it impossible for her to make use of Medicaid, and Medicare appears to be irrelevant in her case.

A discussion with Mrs. Gray is necessary beforehand to understand her wishes and define a more appropriate course of action. She might refuse any kind of assistance, so additional discussions with her and her close circle, consisting of her family and friends, might be necessary to convince her. It is evident that Mrs. Gray needs assistance, considering the analysis of the case, and her son’s worries are valid. To reiterate the main points, her family should be the centerpiece of her support, even if they are unable to live together, but Mrs. Gray also has a variety of other options in case of miscommunication that will allow her to remain independent. However, it is the social worker’s task to determine which services suit Mrs. Gray’s needs and maintain contact with them.

In conclusion, social work with older adults appears to be burdened with many factors that affect their well-being, for example, health issues or financial troubles. They should be approached with special care, and a focus should be on what particularly aggravates a specific case, for example, Mrs. Gray living alone is such a factor in her case. The surroundings of the person might be of significant help, and the lack thereof may make the case more complicated. Regardless, some various organizations and services work with older adults, and a social worker can contact them according to their relevance to the case and regulate their assistance.


Kim, H. (2017). Effect of pain, nutritional risk, loneliness, perceived health status on health-related quality of life in elderly women living alone. Journal of the Korea Convergence Society, 8(7), 207-218. Web.

Lachs, M. S., & Pillemer, K. A. (2015). Elder abuse. The New England Journal of Medicine, 373(20), 1947-1956. Web.

Luppi, M., & Nazio, T. (2019). Does gender top family ties? Within-couple and between-sibling sharing of elderly care. European Sociological Review, 35(6), 772–789. Web.

Moore, R. C., Straus, E., & Campbell, L. M. (2020). Stress, mental health, and aging. In N. Hantke, A. Etkin, and R. O’Hara (Eds.), Handbook of mental health and aging: Third edition (pp. 37-58). Academic Press.

Niles-Yokum, K., & Wagner, D. L. (2019). The aging networks: A guide to policy, programs, and services. Springer.

Park, H. Y., Seo, S. A., & Yoo, H. (2018). Medication adherence and beliefs about medication in elderly patients living alone with chronic diseases. Patient Preference and Adherence, 12, 175-181. Web.

Pimouguet, C., Rizzuto, D., & Schön, P. (2015). Impact of living alone on institutionalization and mortality: A population-based longitudinal study. European Journal of Public Health, 26(1), 182–187. Web.

Resnick, B., Gwyther, L. P., & Roberto, K. A. (Eds.). (2018). Resilience in aging: Concepts, research, and outcomes. Springer.

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