Elder Abuse & Responsibility to Report

Approximately one in 10 older Americans experience some form of elder abuse.  In 2016, Utah’s Adult Protective Services Programs investigated more than 7,200 cases, and suspicion of elder abuse is being reported at higher rates every year. 

“Like other types of interpersonal violence, experts believe that elder abuse is being underreported,” says Dr. Troy Andersen, executive director of the University of Utah College of Social Work’s W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging.  “As a community, we all need to be vigilant.” 

Dr. Andersen explains that elder abuse can include physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse; caretaker or self neglect; or financial exploitation.  More than half of the 2016 cases Utah determined to be supported allegations were of financial exploitation, with physical and emotional abuse making up the next two largest categories. 

Deteriorating physical and mental health (especially dementia) can increase a person’s vulnerability to abuse.  Older adults with dementia and/or physical disabilities experience abuse at a higher rate than those without.  But one of the biggest risk factors for elder abuse is social isolation.  Dr. Andersen explains that having a variety of social connections – family, friends, neighbors, caretakers, or other service providers – gives older adults more options when they need to reach out for help.  It also provides a network of people who can recognize and report abuse when older adults cannot or choose not to report it.

“Just like cases of child abuse, Utah law mandates that suspected abuse of vulnerable adults is reported to the authorities,” says Dr. Andersen.  “It can be a tough call to make, but it’s one that can dramatically improve, or even save a person’s life.” 

Abuse can be reported to Adult Protective Services at 1-800-371-7897, or online at https://daas.utah.gov/adult-protective-services/.  In a life-threatening emergency situation, call 911.


The views and opinions expressed on the interACTION blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Utah or the College of Social Work.

Continuing Work as an Older Adult

By Janelle Brown, MSW Student & 2017 George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Neighbors Helping Neighbors Scholar, University of Utah College of Social Work


After a long and exhausting day at work, knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel can be what gets you through the day. I’m talking about the sunny light of retirement. Someday, after all the years of hard work, there will come a time where you can sit back, relax, and take time to smell the flowers. However, retirement is different now from what it used to be. Folks are living longer—up to 10, 20, or even 30 years after they retire. That’s a big chunk of life. And let’s be honest, I don’t know if there are that many flowers to smell. So what are people doing with their retirement? Believe it or not, some folks are finding ways to continue working.

Continuing to work after retirement does not mean you need to stay at your current job or work full-time. There are many options as to what work could look like for an older adult. Finding part time or hourly work is one example. Think about doing something you love or are interested in. (I have a great aunt that began teaching yoga lessons at a community center. She loves it.) Another form of work could include volunteering your time and experience to help others.

Whether it’s volunteer or paid, there are a number of positive, health-related reasons to continue working. Research shows that continuing to work may lead to a longer, healthier life, both physically and mentally. A recent study conducted by Oregon State University found that adults who retired even one year after age 65 have an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes. This was true even in adults who described themselves as unhealthy (Wu, Odden, Fisher, & Stawski, 2016).

Additionally, Chenkai Wu, the lead author of the study, said, “It may not apply to everybody, but we think work brings people a lot of social benefits that could impact the length of their lives.”  Working keeps you mentally sharp by requiring problem solving and thinking, and building this kind of cognitive reserve can help delay the onset of dementia (Weir, 2017).

One common complaint of older adults is experiencing feelings of social isolation, uselessness, and insignificance. Work can provide important relationships and meaningful social interaction, as well as a sense of identity. Work can allow an individual to feel like they are contributing, along with providing a sense of fulfillment.

This benefit is particularly pertinent for “David”, a client of our Neighbors Helping Neighbors program. David, who is completely blind, utilizes technology to help keep him independent and is in the process of starting his own business to help disabled individuals like himself. David is looking forward to giving back by helping others.  It’s important to him to maintain connections with other people as a way of staying involved in the world around him.

So for those of you looking anxiously toward that light at the end of the tunnel, think of it less as what you’re retiring from, but more as what you’re retiring to.



Weir, K. (2017). Keeping Dementia at Bay. American Psychological Association, Vol 48, No. 7.

Wu, C., Odden, M. C., Fisher, G. G., & Stawski, R. S. (2016). Association of retirement age with mortality: A population-based longitudinal study among older adults in the USA. Epidemiology and Community Health.


The views and opinions expressed on the interACTION blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Utah or the College of Social Work.

Interprofessional Teams: What They Are and Why They Matter in Social Work Practice

“Interprofessional teams.”  If you’ve not yet heard the phrase mentioned during workplace meetings or classroom discussions, chances are that you will soon.  So, what’s the story behind the helping professions’ latest buzzword?  What exactly does it mean?

Interprofessional healthcare teams draw on providers from a broad range of health professions.  From doctors to dentists, physical therapists to social workers, professionals work together to create an individualized plan for a patient.  Doing so allows for more person-centered and family-centered health care.  “Interprofessional teams allow practitioners to be proactive in guiding care, rather than reactive in treating illness,” explained Associate Professor Marilyn Luptak. 

Though mental health has typically not been a priority for patients or providers in healthcare arenas, mental health factors play a huge role in wellness. “Medical care and treatment is not the only component and often not the most important component of a proactive, team-based, family-centered care plan,” said Dr. Luptak.  “Social determinants of health are often more important than the physical factors.” 

This is why including social workers on these teams is vital to the process.  Troy Andersen, director of the College of Social Work’s W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging, expounded, “A successful interprofessional team needs to include someone who has a mental health background and can assess mental health issues that medical doctors aren’t equipped to handle. Social work is one of the least understood and, when utilized, most appreciated aspects of complete patient care.” Mental health care providers have a unique ability to provide a more complete understanding of who the patient is.

This need for holistic understanding of individual needs is especially important for older adult populations.  “There is no other time in a person’s life when health and mental health are more intertwined than with older adults, and no other time when they are more neglected,” said Dr. Andersen. 

“There are older adults at every level of the health spectrum,” added Dr. Luptak.  “Some are thriving, some have serious, chronic issues.  There is no one plan or one provider that can address all the needs of every individual. Interprofessional teams address these individualized needs.” 

Drs. Andersen and Luptak emphasized that these teams don’t just happen.  But with a growing recognition in healthcare systems that patients aren’t getting the care they need, interprofessional teams are becoming increasingly important in shaping patient care. 

The Goodwill Initiatives on Aging will explore these and related issues during this spring’s Interprofessional Seminar Series on Aging – Spring 2018, with eight presentations focusing on the Complexities of Geriatric Assessment: Why We Need Interprofessional Teams.  The series will highlight the pressing need to remove professional silos in geriatric care and will include insights from professionals working in a variety of health care-related fields, such as dentistry, nutrition, medicine, pharmacy, and other human service professions.  The first event, “Introduction to Interprofessional Assessment,” will be presented by Drs. Luptak and Andersen on Thursday, January 11, 2018, from 12:00-1:15 pm in the College of Social Work.  All seminars are free, open to the public, and approved for one NASW-endorsed CEU each.

Joan of Arc & Transgender Military Service

By Charles Hoy-Ellis, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, University of Utah College of Social Work


Transgender people have served honorably and bravely in militaries for as long as there have been militaries.

Consider Joan of Arc. We know nothing about her gender identity or sexual orientation, however the historical record overwhelmingly shows she wore armor as clothing and took a prominent public service role reserved exclusively for men, leading the French armies to victory against the English in 1429. This dress and role could easily be read as gender-non-conforming. In fact, her conviction and subsequent burning alive at the stake were based on heresy, in part because she had dared wear men’s clothes and act in a man’s role to save her nation. Yet, it would be difficult to argue that Joan of Arc’s decision to wear armor and cut her hair short made her any less effective as a soldier or a leader. 

It has been said that history repeats itself. A more accurate observation states that “history does not repeat itself; people repeat history.” And so, many are clueless when it comes to history.

Last year, on June 30, 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the repeal of the ban on transgender Americans serving openly in the military. This long-overdue measure followed the Pentagon’s repeal of the notorious “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DODT) policy in 2011, which allowed lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) Americans to serve in the military on the explicit condition that they kept their sexual orientation a secret.

Although it is challenging to come up with unimpeachable estimates, it is believed that there are some 134,000 transgender veterans and retirees from the Guard and Reserves, (Gates & Herman, 2014). In a large community-based research project studying LGBT adults aged 50 and older, 41% of transgender older participants indicated that they have served in the military (Hoy-Ellis et al., 2017). Eighteen other nations—including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia—have, for years, allowed transgender citizens to serve openly and proudly in their militaries. The reality is that through joint military exercises, the U.S. military has already worked alongside openly transgender soldiers… and civilization as we know it has not collapsed!

Research shows that military exclusion of transgender service members has significant physical, mental, and social health outcomes. For some transgender Americans, having served in the military appears to be associated with lower levels of depression and higher mental health related quality of life (MHQOL) in later life (Hoy-Ellis et al., 2017).

While most, if not all marginalized groups experience minority stressors due to their minority group status, Meyer (2003) specified a Minority Stress Model that was an initial conceptualization of the causes and consequences of dealing with LGBT-specific minority stressors on top of general stressors that most people experience. Minority stressors include actual experiences of discrimination and victimization and fear of being rejected by important others (such as friends or family members), should one’s LGBT identity become known. Also included are internalized identity stigma (the internalization of stereotypical, negative attitudes, values, or beliefs regarding marginalized social groups), and hiding who one is to make oneself a less visible target for discrimination and victimization. While hiding one’s LGBT identity might be helpful in the short term, over the long-term this becomes yet another chronic stressor that has significant negative physical, mental, and social health outcomes. Fredriksen-Goldsen and colleagues (Fredriksen-Goldsen et al., 2014) built upon minority stress concepts and incorporated a resilience framework that also attends to the life course perspective to give a fuller, more robust conceptualization of the multicontextual, multilevel dynamics of everyday LGBT lives.

The detrimental impact of prohibiting transgender Americans from serving in the military is not limited to the individual. 

Best estimates suggest that there are approximately 15,000 currently serving transgender military service members (Gates & Herman, 2014). There is abundant evidence that transgender (and LGB) Americans have served honorably in the U.S. military for decades upon decades (Canaday, 2009). Far from destroying morale, LGBT service members have contributed every bit as much as their heterosexual counterparts. One of the cornerstones of unit cohesiveness is trust; trust relies on openness and honesty. Allowing transgender Americans to serve openly would significantly reduce the impact of minority stress. Stating categorically that our transgender citizens cannot honorably serve in any capacity will severely and negatively impact the mental and physical health of transgender military service members and ultimately diminish the effectiveness of our military. 


Canaday, M. (2009). The straight state: Sexuality and citizenship in twentieth-century America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., Simoni, J. M., Kim, H.-J., Lehavot, K., Walters, K. L., Yang, J., . . . Muraco, A. (2014). The health equity promotion model: Reconceptualization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) health disparities. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(6), 653–683. doi:10.1037/ort0000030

Gates, G. J., & Herman, J. (2014). Transgender Military Service in the United States. Los Angeles: The Williams Institute: UCLA School of Law.

Hoy-Ellis, C. P., Shiu, C., Sullivan, K. M., Kim, H. J., Sturges, A. M., & Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I. (2017). Prior military service, identity stigma, and mental health among transgender older adults. The Gerontologist, 57(suppl 1), S63-S71. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw173

Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674 – 697. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674


The views and opinions expressed on the interACTION blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Utah or the College of Social Work.

social workers

General Summary: The Marian Center is an inpatient hospital serving the needs of seniors with mental health related problems. We also run and operate an outpatient therapy group with psychiatric medication management. This job is a clinical role and would be working with both the inpatient and outpatient programs. This includes conducting services such as; psycho-social assessments, treatment plans, individual therapy, group therapy, family services, case management, discharge planning, and more. Works alongside the Director of Social Services to ensure Social Services department is working efficiently, improving processes, and enhancing positive team culture.

More specifically:

Completes psychosocial history and summary or update or admission within two treatment days of admission. Develops Treatment plans within three treatment days of admission and participates as a team member in the Interdisciplinary Treatment Planning Conference. Implements and reviews Treatment Plans with patients. Provides treatment coordination with assigned patients. Documents Case Conferences for problematic cases. Documents patients group participation and individual interactions daily in medical record. Evaluates data from all sources and recommends referrals as need. Assesses patients and families for possibility of family therapy. Provides or refers out family therapy or support group as deemed necessary by self and other team members. Develops lectures and special focus topics for program enhancement as requested. Assists in formulating Discharge Plan. Provides therapeutic services to patients and their families and groups of patients in relation to functional impairments related to their illness and behaviors resulting from psychodynamics’ of their illness. Emotional problems between family and patients in coping with anxieties, stress precipitated by illness and hospitalization. Psycho-education about their illness and aids in coping and improving their quality of life. Facilitates group therapy. Participates in community meetings, in-service training, and team meetings. Participates in public relations, develops referral sources, and provides community education. Receives telephone inquiries and assists in assessments. Participates in maintaining patient safety standards. Complies with and implements corporate, hospital, and department policies and procedures. Provides information to referral sources within confidentiality guidelines. Works together with other departments when they need help in program development. Develops and maintains working relationships between the Program and other outside community agencies.

Qualifications:1. Master’s Degree in Social Work, Psychology, or related field. Active State License as Clinical Mental Health Professional is required. (Required licenses and Certifications will be reviewed and need to be current). Minimum of two years relevant experience preferred, (We are willing to consider those working toward clinical licence). 2. Clear a Bureau of Criminal Identification (BCI) check as part of a Department of Health, Bureau of Licensing process.3. Ability to read, write and speak the English language in such a manner as to be understood by patients, residents, participants, and other associates.

Job Type: Full-time

Apply through indeed: https://www.indeed.com/cmp/The-Marian-Center-at-St.-Joseph-Villa/jobs/Social-Worker-c472225e73ee6f45?q=marian

or email Shane Pitcher at Spitcher@ensignservcies.net

Geriatric Clinical Manager (w/$1,200 sign-on bonus)

Highland Ridge Hospital

Geriatric Clinical Manager (w/$1,200 sign-on bonus)

The Clinical Manager provides treatment to geriatric and adolescent psychiatric and chemical dependency patients in an inpatient setting.  We are offering a $1,200 sign-on bonus for this job.

Job duties include:

*Plans and conducts individual, family, and/or group therapy as assigned by Director of Clinical Services or Physician’s order.

*Conducts, assesses and interprets psychosocial assessment as assigned by Director of Clinical Services or Physician’s order.

*Reviews all multidisciplinary assessments and complies a multidisciplinary treatment plan.

*Coordinates discharge planning as assigned by Director of Clinical Services.. 

This is a full time position.  City is Midvale, UT.

*Clinical license required (licensed Social Worker or Counselor)
*1-2 years of inpatient psychiatric experience 

Apply online at:  https://recruiting.ultipro.com/ACA1001/JobBoard/f24b6286-a80b-4d02-e4e1-ad04762a00de/OpportunityDetail?opportunityId=8562baca-6330-4914-a545-19689118be45

Independence in Older Adults

By Beth Adair, Master of Social Work Student, 2016-2017 George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Neighbors Helping Neighbors Scholar


For the past seven months, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with older adults through the University of Utah College of Social Work’s Neighbor’s Helping Neighbors (NHN) program. This experience has provided insight into the lives of those older adults who wish to remain independent as they work through the changes that come with aging. Many things can take independence from us as we age — disease, accident, loss of hearing or sight, financial problems, change in family situations, and many other physical and social shifts. Our goal at NHN is to work with older adults to find ways to overcome those challenges, where possible, and help them remain independent.

One way that NHN is working to prevent loss of independence is a focus on the mental health of the older adults with whom we work. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently conducted research addressing the importance of mental health for older adults. Depressive disorders can add to complications of already existing health problems, which could easily lead to a loss of independence. The report also states, “Depression is not a normal part of growing older. Rather, in 80% of cases it is a treatable condition.” The report goes on to explain that because depression is normalized as a part of aging, often it is not recognized and goes untreated.

Depression is not the only thing that can take away the independence of an older adult. In order to illustrate the various levels and the situations that effect independence, I would like to talk about two clients who have worked with NHN (names and details have been changed to protect privacy).

Mary has macular degeneration, and has almost completely lost her eye sight. She has been able to remain mostly independent. She has a positive supportive family and friends who are willing to assist her with the activities of daily living she is unable to do alone. She also has a very positive attitude about her situation stating, “Well, there’s nothing I can do to change it, so I may as well accept it!” Her attitude has also allowed her to have the confidence to learn to use technology to remain connected to friends, family, and supports. Those connections provide the support she needs to remain independent. She also has a companion from the Blind Center who comes once a week to support her in learning the new technology on her iPhone.

In contrast, Hazel moved to Utah to be with her son and has very few social supports. Her son has since become estranged and she now lives in a care center. Although her living situation is not fully independent, NHN has been able to provide therapeutic intervention that helped her to make social connections, allowing for more independence to do things like go to the store or social activities away from the care center. Hazel has started to attend church and has begun to make friends in the care center. She is also learning to utilize technology; for her this allows for connection to people back home.

While independence for these two clients looks different, they are two examples of how NHN is able to help connect people to the resources they need to remain as independent as their situation allows. Independence is key for older adults as they work through the changes that come with aging.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. The State of Mental Health and Aging in America Issue Brief 1: What Do the Data Tell Us? Atlanta, GA: National Association of Chronic Disease Directors; 2008.

New Choices Waiver Case Manager

Envision Quality Supports

6364 S. Highland Dr. #105
Salt Lake City, UT 84121
Phone:  (801) 209-1357
website:  www.envisionquality.com


Job Description:  New Choices Waiver Case Manager

Please email letter of interest and current resume to: chris@envisionquality.com



Provides social work case management to adults in home and community-based settings following County, State and Federal regulations, policies and procedures.



Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in Social Work, Gerontology, or other closely related field.

Must have a current license as a Social Service Worker in the State of Utah.

Due to the nature of this position, the successful applicant must pass a required background investigation.



  • Uses acceptable case management practices to complete intakes and comprehensive assessments/reassessments to screen and determine eligibility, detailing presenting client care and safety needs.
  • Develops, implements, monitors, and evaluates comprehensive care plans that address identified client service and safety needs.
  • Creates and maintains accurate clinical and financial records for assigned clients.
  • Manages fiscal expenditures of assigned caseload adjusting clients to maintain desired spending levels.
  • Works closely with contracted service providers to ensure quality of care of services provided.
  • Provides advocacy on behalf of clients as appropriate.



Commensurate with experience


Remembering Gene Wilder

By Troy Andersen, PhD, LCSW, Director of the W.D. Goodwill Initiatives on Aging, University of Utah College of Social Work


One of the most memorable scenes from the 1974 classic “Young Frankenstein” was when Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) sent Igor (Marty Feldman) in search of a brain for his greatest scientific experiment: creating life.  Igor, unfortunately, retrieved the brain he later identified as belonging to Abby Normal.  This unfortunate misstep leads to Dr. Frankenstein’s life work taking funny and tragic turns throughout the movie.  Fast forward several decades and, sadly, there were steady abnormal shifts in Gene Wilder’s own brain, caused by Alzheimer’s disease that led to his progressive decline and subsequent death.

Alzheimer’s disease is no respecter of status, wealth, or accomplishment.  Just two years ago, Robin Williams – another comedic legend – ended his life due to the subtle symptomatic changes associated with Lewy body dementia (a related dementia of the more widely-known Alzheimer’s disease).  Glen Campbell, another national icon, is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease and is no longer able to communicate with his loved ones.  These national celebrities shine the spotlight on the neurologic conditions that have robbed them of the gifts they utilized to perfect their craft and enhance our lives.  Alzheimer’s disease is notorious for robbing individuals of their ability to entertain, problem solve, remember, relate, communicate, and participate in life’s most meaningful experiences.

What we don’t get to see is the quiet, private, and painful struggles of their love ones as they’ve watched wit and laughter and music and light gradually slip away.  This is the same tragic process that’s witnessed by millions of caregivers in our country as the numbers of individuals struggling with Alzheimer’s disease continues to increase.  Family members know all too well of the global and catastrophic damage that occurs in the brain, impairing function and personality, as someone progresses through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

As we re-watch our favorite movies of our favorite comedians and musicians, as we recollect how they have altered our lives in profound ways, might we also reflect on the millions of less well-known individuals who’ve lived quieter lives who are walking through the silencing journey in their longest goodbye.

outpatient clinic social worker

This is a posting recruiting for an outpatient clinic social worker for the brand new UNI Geriatric Psychiatry clinic.  This is a great opportunity for a LCSW interested in building a program from the ground up with a very Social Work friendly Geriatric Psychiatry team. Great opportunity for a clinician who is interested in focusing on counseling with a built-in referral source and no billing headaches.  Good candidates would have experience working with older adults, understanding of the medical system/ medical social work, experience working with grief and loss issues, and experience with dementia patients and their caregivers (additional dementia training will be offered upon hire). The clinic will open in August at UNI and will be moving to Farmington around November when the new space is ready.