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October is National Depression Awareness Month

As social workers, we want to be especially aware of the signs and symptoms of depression in our clients. One population that may be particularly vulnerable to depression is the elderly. Often, depression in the elderly is difficult to distinguish from the various medical conditions that arise during the later stages of life. Untreated depression is truly frightening in this population as it often increases the risk for cardiac diseases and exacerbates a person’s ability to recover from other illnesses. Despite how daunting the effects of this disease are for the elderly demographic, social workers can play a key role in buffering depression’s symptoms.

I recently read an article that I thought social workers would find very interesting, especially those who work with the aging demographic. Although I am not personally in the Aging Certificate program, I think it is crucial that social workers keep up to date with fields outside of their own areas of emphasis. So when I read this article, I was thinking about what it could mean for my colleagues in the Aging Certificate program. The study I’m talking about was presented in August of this year at the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) annual meeting in NYC. According to study co-author Sara Moorman, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and the Institute on Aging at Boston College, grandparents and grandchildren can have a significant beneficial psychological effect on each other…

“We found that an emotionally close grandparent-adult grandchild
relationship was associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both
generations. The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren
received from one another, the better their psychological health.” – Sara Moorman.

Although this article is about a grandparent-grandchild relationship, I think it easily generalizes to social workers who work with the elderly. The message we can take away from this is that we must emotionally be there for our elderly clients. Listen to them. Support them. Show them that you care. Reciprocate. Establish a mutual, genuine relationship. Practice this in your internships and in your careers. It will not only benefit your own psychological wellbeing but that of your client as well. Making a significant difference in our clients’ lives is one of the most gratifying experiences we can ever have as social workers. Please think about this during this month of National Depression Awareness. We have the power to buffer effects of a truly debilitating disease. Feel free to share your own clinical experiences with this subject! The more we can learn from each another, the better!


John Schafhauser is a second-year Nonprofit and Public Management student in the Violence Against Women and Children program.

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