Social work practice: A look at competency assessments with older adults in healthcare settings
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This research contributes to the social work understanding of mental competency assessments with older adults in healthcare settings. Utilizing a narrative research methodology, this qualitative research study analysed nine face-to-face interviews with social workers with experience assessing competency of older adults in the following Winnipeg, Manitoba healthcare settings: hospitals, personal care homes, and a number of community settings (home care, geriatric specialty programs, and private practice). Drawing from systems and ecological theories, as well as the social determinants of health, the results of this study revealed several key concerns such as the motivation behind what triggers an assessment, the specific tests and methods used to determine competency, inequitable treatment of the patient throughout the assessment depending on their cultural or socioeconomic background, and depending on the setting whether the social worker felt their role on the assessment team was valued or dismissed. Recommendations outlined implications for: enhancing the quality of the competency assessment process; expanding the role of social work in interdisciplinary settings; examining the use of methods and tests for assessment; and exploring opportunities for change in legislation, education and early detection. Potential areas of further study are discussed.