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Substance Use Problems and Older Adults Teaching Module

This module covers substance use problems experienced by older adults, particularly alcohol problems and medication problems. It includes a PowerPoint presentation, teaching notes, case studies, references for screening tools, and suggested videos. It includes information on the incidence/prevalence of these problems; risk factors and warning signs; screening, diagnosis, and assessment; Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, psychiatric disorders, dementia, delirium, and co-morbidity; barriers to recognition and intervention; brief intervention; culturally relevant information focused on Mexican Americans as an example; assessment of stages of change; and treatment approaches and strategies. It can be divided into sections, or slides can be used selectively depending on the audience and time available for presentation. An extensive reference list is included.

Tools for Social Workers Helping Older Adults With Substance Use Problems

This handout contains some of the most practical tools for practitioners such as pocket references and clinical guidelines developed by SAMHSA.

Lesson plans offer suggestions and accompanying materials for infusing content on older adults and substance abuse problems in advanced master’s courses. The lesson plans provide ways for delivering content in courses or continuing education programs or sessions, and have been used to infuse this content in a course called Clinical Assessment and Differential Diagnosis.

Substance Use Problems-Case Studies Featuring Mexican American Older Adults

The four case studies can be used for class discussion, role-play or group activities, take-home assignments, or in-class tests. Instructor notes are included; and each case is accompanied by essay or discussion questions, and true/false and multiple-choice questions to accommodate the format the instructor prefers to use. The questions cover diagnoses on all five DSM-IV axes, cultural considerations, and client strengths. The teaching notes for each question support identification, strengths, and treatment or interventions needed. Answers, including discussion points, are provided for the essay/discussion questions. Answer keys are provided for the true/false and multiple-choice questions.

Case Study 1. A recent retiree, a 65-year-old Mexican-American, with a significant health problem and a medication reaction resulting in delirium. This case highlights the transition to retirement in the face of a health problem and psychosocial challenges. It is meant to help social workers understand criteria for substance-induced disorders.

Case Study 2. A 73-year-old Latina woman with diabetes who is engaged in risk drinking or alcohol abuse. This case is intended to help students identify a diagnosis of alcohol abuse and to consider or rule out other potential diagnoses such as depression or dementia.

Case Study 3. A 75-year-old Latino man who has dementia and long-standing alcohol dependence. This case provides a classic illustration of substance dependence, which has likely resulted in Alcohol-Induced Persisting Dementia or Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome in later life.

Case Study 4. A couple from Mexico with a long history of domestic violence. The husband has a personality disorder, and the wife is suffering from depression. Both are abusing alcohol. This case demonstrates problems of alcohol abuse and its co-occurrence with depression and antisocial personality disorder.

Substance Use Problems, Ethnicity, and Older Adults: An Annotated Bibliography

This annotated bibliography offers culturally relevant articles, reports, and books related to substance use problems among older adults of specific ethnic groups. Some direct links to websites and articles are provided. The sections address epidemiology and prevalence of substance use problems among older adults across ethnic groups and within specific ethnic groups; treatment effectiveness for substance use problems among older adults with reference to racial/ethnic groups; and general references on ethnicity, health promotion, and substance use problems among older adults.

 Competencies Addressed in This Module:

  1. Awareness of standardized assessment and diagnostic tools that are appropriate for use with older adults
  2. Application and evaluation of research findings to improve practice and program outcomes
  3. Ability to incorporate into treatment and service planning the relationship of race, ethnicity, and culture on health status, health belief, help-seeking behaviors, health practice (i.e., traditional medicine), and health outcomes
  4. Ability to conduct differential mental health diagnosis regarding dementia, delirium, and depression with the interdisciplinary team and use diagnostic tools appropriate for older adults
  5. Ability to conduct assessment and intervention strategies for substance/drug/alcohol abuse for those in later life
  6. Application of evaluation and research findings to improve practice and program outcomes