“Alzheimer’s is heartbreaking,” declares Delia J. González Sanders, LCSW, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Field Coordinator. “I’ve seen how cruelly it impacts my pre-social work and social work students who struggle as caregivers of close relatives with this affliction.” At a personal level, she has felt the wrench of these students keenly. Experiencing the pain of seeing members of her own family deal with dementia propelled her into writing her doctoral dissertation at Smith College titled: Familismo, Resilience and Problem-Solving in Latino Family Caregivers of Dementia-Afflicted Relatives: An Ethno-Cultural Cross-Sectional Study.
Just this year, Sanders has co-authored with Richard H. Fortinsky, Ph.D., Dementia Care with Black and Latino Families: A Social Work ProblemSolving Approach (Springer Publications, 2012).
Sanders’ book provides practical guidance for undergraduate and graduate social work students and professionals, and other health care professionals working with Black and Latino families living with the daily challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. “The book is grounded in the interpretation and meaning of dementia in Black and Latino cultural heritages,” explains Sanders, “but this particular modality works for everyone, while providing a concrete step-by-step approach for practitioners. Case studies place the material into real-world situations.”
The text also includes a problem-solving practice model and an overview of current and projected demographic and socio-economic trends in the Black and Latino populations in the United States. It provides an overview of the different types of dementia based on current evidence, financial and service delivery trends, and the use of technology affecting social work professionals engaged with the book’s target population.
Latoya McCalla, a senior social work major who has taken a number of classes with Sanders, remarks, “I felt Dr. Sanders had written the chapter titled ‘Target Problems and Problem Solving Goals’ just for me. Taking classes at CCSU, working full-time, and doing an internship, I was not able to take care of my uncle who had dementia. The book helped me see that I needed to find him an independent living facility.”
Sanders’ new book is a tool for future social workers on the front line in dealing with this devastating health issue. Her wider research interests include diverse caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease and related irreversible dementia; eliminating health disparities among Latinos and other ethnically diverse populations; cultural competence in social work; translating social work research into clinical practice; and examining Latino caregiver problem-solving and resilience.
In the classroom, Sanders applies a variety of student-centered learning strategies: training; lecturing and explaining; inquiry and discovery; groups and teams; and experience and reflection. She strives to help students acquire demonstrated competencies in accordance with the educational policy and accreditation standards established by the Council on Social Work Education in 2008. Additionally undergraduate social work students are trained in the National Association of Social Work professional (NASW) “code of ethics” and “standards for cultural competence.”
When Sanders joined the Department of Social Work in 2007, she was aware of only a couple of her students who had relatives suffering from dementia. Since then, she has seen that number more than triple. Her research is driven by the recognition, she says, that “as America’s population ages and becomes more ethnically diverse, there is growing need for social workers to treat not only individuals afflicted with dementia and their families but to also understand this illness through the eyes of different ethnic groups.”