Clinical Practice with Older Adults Course Descriptions

April 14: Key Concepts in Practice with Older Adults
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by the year 2035, Americans age 65 years and older will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. This foundational session will introduce concepts to be explored more in-depth throughout the program. Key components of the older adult biopsychosocial assessment and strategies for planning interventions across practice settings will be explored. Participants will discuss their own perceptions about aging through a self-reflection exercise.

April 21: Bio-Medical Approach to Care for Older Adults
This session will explore the fundamental biology of aging, bringing participants to an understanding of normal aging processes, common geriatric syndromes, and end of life issues. The most common chronic illnesses in older adulthood as well as concepts of multimorbidity and frailty will be examined in the context of older adult health. The session will conclude by exploring the importance of interprofessional teamwork in older adult health care.

April 28: Understanding Health Insurance Systems for Older Adults
This session will review the major health insurance systems that older adults utilize in the United States (and Illinois specifically), including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, and the resources available to assist older clients in navigating these complex systems. Participants will also explore and discuss the complex factors involved in health insurance and health care decision-making, including health literacy and socioeconomic factors.

May 5: Understanding Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults
Older adults and the supportive people in their lives interact with healthcare and community-based resource systems in addition to a confusing array of housing options. Participants will understand the complexities of choices that support independence, areas for advocacy, and how to more confidently direct clients toward needed assistance. Special attention will be paid to helping immigrants navigate available resources.

May 12: Intersectionality and Later Life
Race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and other facets of being deeply influence the experience of getting older. Cultural competency is not enough to provide our older clients with the care they need to thrive within their individual and collective contexts. In this session, we will explore how interconnected, marginalized identities are associated with unequal aging, and what we as providers can do to promote equity and justice within our work at the levels of practice and policy.

May 19: Ethical, Legal and Practice Issues Near End of Life
This session will address the issues older adults often face as they near the end of life, and the ways that professionals can be helpful as clients confront multiple losses and, ultimately, their mortality.  Common ethical dilemmas that arise, particularly as they relate to reduced capacity and self-neglect, will be explored.  Further, this session will provide an overview of key legal and practice issues relating to preserving autonomy: assessing decisional capacity, guardianship, powers of attorney, and provider orders for life-sustaining treatment.

May 26: Aging and Mental Health
This session will review assessment, diagnosis, and treatment within the context of aging. We will engage in a critical exploration of evidence-based interventions that attend to the specific developmental tasks of older adulthood. Manifestations of trauma and substance use across the lifespan will receive special consideration. In addition to familiarizing ourselves with the mental health challenges associated with aging, we will also immerse ourselves in the strengths and resiliencies of this population and articulate the joys of engaging clients at this significant and vital stage of life.

June 2: Working with Caregiving Families
An essential element of practice with older adults is the integration of the elder’s natural social supports into the assessment and plan of care. More importantly, these social supports, or caregivers, have unique needs themselves. This session will explore the roles of caregivers, the impact of caregiving on the caregiver, and common family dynamic trends in aging. Participants will learn methods for assessing and intervening with informal caregivers, as well as signs of elder abuse and financial exploitation.

June 9: Exploring How to Recognize and Support those Living with Dementia
Cognitive impairment is common among older adults, especially among people age 85 years and older. It ranges on a continuum from mild forgetting to severe problems with memory, thinking, language, and self-care abilities. This session will describe the earliest signs to the advanced stages of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. This session will address a range of care needs and resources for diagnosed individuals and their family caregivers. The roles of practitioners will be highlighted throughout the continuum of care.

June 16: Evolving Upward: Values, Spirituality, and Wisdom and Program Wrap-Up
There is abundant evidence that the presence of older people—and access to their wisdom—broadly improves lives and human life. What is wisdom?  Folk beliefs characterize wisdom as an essence—a set of immutable characteristics, developing as a consequence of an innate potential and extraordinary life experiences.  In this session we will discuss the importance of exploring and honoring values, spirituality, and wisdom in older adults.  We will discuss integrating forgiveness and rituals, two approaches with roots in religious traditions, into clinical practice.