Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work will host the Joanna Mellor Annual Gerontology Conference on November 14. This is the fourth palliative-care conference that Wurzweiler has organized in recent years and the first one that will address issues relating to elder care and palliative care concurrently.
“Elder care and palliative care are not separate issues; they’re complementary,” said Dr. Rozetta Wilmore-Schaeffer, associate professor and co-chair of the Gerontology Sequence at Wurzweiler, and one of the conference organizers. “It’s important to recognize that all people dealing with palliative care are not elders, but all elder care includes palliative care.”
Joanna Mellor, for whom the conference is named, died two years ago and had been at Wurzweiler for 10 years. “She was a leader in setting up Wurzweiler’s gerontology program and also in the field, serving as president of the State Society on Aging of New York,” said Gary Stein, JD, MSW, professor at Wurzweiler, vice chair of the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network, and conference organizer. “We are hoping this conference continues her tradition.”
The conference will center on “Reframing Psychosocial Care for Elders, Caregivers, and Serious Illness: A Response to Evolving Health Systems” and is cosponsored by the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network, State Society on Aging of New York, and Public Health Association of New York.
“These are changing times for healthcare and the field of social work,” Stein said. “The conference will touch upon how the healthcare system responds to the needs of frail elders and meets the new goals of continuity of care. Patients now prefer to age and be treated in a home environment, and not in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, or being subjected to prolonged hospitalizations.”
The keynote address, “Building a Care System to Rely Upon When Frail in Old Age,” will be delivered by Dr. Joanne Lynn, an internationally renowned physician, geriatrician, and policy maker, and director of the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness at the Altarum Institute in Washington, DC. Last month, Lynn wrote an article in the New York Times advocating for a system of local Medicaring Community Boards that would monitor the well-being of the frail elderly, measure the cost of their care, and optimize the supply and quality of services.
A panel discussion on “Stepping Through the Looking Glass: Meeting the Future of Social Work in Health,” will be presented by Susan Blacker, director of Cancer Services Planning and Performance at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, and Dr. Penelope Damaskos, director of the Department of Social Work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, President-Elect of the Association of Oncology Social Work, and a graduate of Wurzweiler’s doctoral program.
The second panel will focus on “Tending to Caregiver Needs: How Macro and Micro Policy Can Help,” given by social workers Judy R. Peres, a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee on Approaching Death in Washington, DC, and Lynn Friss Feinberg, a senior strategic policy advisor at Independent Living/Long-Term Care, AARP Public Policy Institute in DC.
“We know from working with elderly people that they do much better physically and psychologically when connected to family and friends,” said Schaeffer. “There’s a difference between the warmth of home and the sterility of an institution. Families want them at home and face many financial struggles because the system is not designed to provide funding for home care. Recently there have been efforts to redirect funds to home care, by adopting a hospice model that incorporates family care or caregivers at home supported by hospice staff.”
The event will be held at YU’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at 55 Fifth Avenue at 12th Street in Manhattan from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants can receive up to 3.5 continuing education credits. Register online at yu.edu/wurzweiler/events.