May 17, 2020

Gerontological Social Workers: the growing demand for Elder Advocacy

4 min
Gerontological Social Workers the growing demand for Elder Advocacy.jpg
Written by HayleighM. By 2030, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older. The number of elderly people over the age of 85, which is also the gro...

Written by Hayleigh M.


By 2030, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older. The number of elderly people over the age of 85, which is also the group of elders most likely to experience chronic illness, poverty and isolation, will more than double by 2050. Medical advances have added a generation to American life expectancy. Just 21 percent of people born in 1900 had one grandparent still alive when they turned 30 years old. In contrast, 76 percent of people born in 2000 will have at least one living grandparent when they turn 30.

Substance abuse, child welfare, corrections, health care and mental health — all work handled by social workers — have specific elements related to aging. Most social workers who work with the elderly, called "gerontological social workers," have a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Now is a good time to enroll in an MSW program, and online education makes getting the degree more convenient than ever. You can click here to discoveronline MSW programs that will qualify you to work in the growing field of gerontological social work.

An In-demand Profession

In 2005, a survey of licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) found that only 9 percent actually worked with the elderly. Of those 9 percent, only 75 percent actually had training specific to aging issues. By 2015, the demand for gerontological social workers will increase by 45 percent. The country will need 60,000 to 70,000 gerontological social workers by 2020, but only a small percentage of that number of social workers is currently available. Additionally, the median age of geriatric social workers is 50, and 10 percent of MSWs plan to retire in two years. No wonder US News and World Report named geriatric social work as one of its top 20 careers in terms of growth potential.

Another aspect of America's growing elderly population is its increasing diversity. Currently, only 17 percent of people over 65 are people of color. By 2050, that number will grow to 33 percent. The National Association of Social Workersreports that the current population of social workers is less diverse than the current population, and the diversity gap is expected to grow significantly by 2030. Not only does America need more gerontological social workers; the country also needs an increased number of social workers from African-American, Asian and Hispanic communities.

Common Issues That the Elderly Face

Two-thirds of Americans who need long-term care are elderly, and long-term care comes with an array of psychosocial factors. These factors can include:

·         Abuse, neglect and mistreatment. One to two million older adults suffer abuse or neglect each year. The National Center of Elder Abuseestimates that 13 cases go unreported for every single case that is discovered.

·         Depression.Depression is the most common mental health issue among the elderly. It is frequently associated with an increased risk of suicide.

·         Substance abuse.Abuse of alcohol, drugs, prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs is highest among the elderly. In fact, men 75 and older have a higher proportion of substance abuse than any other age group.

·         Hoarding.This issue, which is common among seniors with dementia, can threaten their physical safety and the safety of their caregivers.

Other issues faced by the elderly population include social isolation, chronic illness, mental health problems, behavioral health issues and poverty. In fact, one in 10 older Americans lives in poverty, and the proportion is higher among seniors in minority populations. Gerontological social workers help older Americans to handle these issues by coordinating with caregivers, medical professionals, psychotherapists and long-term care facilities. They also help seniors to transition from hospitals into home-based care or rehabilitation centers; provide reporting, intervention and prevention of cases of elder abuse; assist seniors with end-of-life and advanced directive planning; and develop programs that help seniors get the most from their golden years.

Most elderly adults lead active and productive lives. However, many need care from family members, assisted living facilities and medical providers, and the number of aging Americans is placing a strain on today's level of services. Becoming a gerontological social worker is not only a great path to a rewarding career. It's also an essential component of ensuring that America's elderly age with dignity and with the respect they deserve.


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Jun 13, 2021

How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats

Jonathan Miles
6 min
Jonathan Miles, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Security Research at Mimecast, tells us how the healthcare sector can protect itself from attacks

One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority.  In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.

The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics. 

From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world. 

Going digital 

The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years. 

This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate. 

Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.

To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care. 

Strengthening defences

Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change. 

It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device. 

These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.

Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement: 
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.

In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.

Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents. 

Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.

This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents. 
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.

Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.

As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.  

Fighting future threats

With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.

To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced. 

This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.

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