Review: Gonzalez, Delia and Fortinsky – Dementia Care With Black and Latino Families: A Social Work Problem-Solving Approach (2012)

Gonzalez Sanders, Delia J and Fortinsky, Richard H. Dementia Care With Black and Latino Families: A Social Work Problem-Solving Approach. Springer Publishing. 2012 ISBN978-0-8261-0677-3 (Paper) $55

This book is divided into three sections: 1) Setting the Context for Understanding Ethnic Dementia Care; 2) Social Work Process: Tools and Applications for Ethnic Populations and 3) Foundations and Future Care. The majority of the book focuses on section two, “Social Work Process”. The primary theoretical orientations, 1) Systems theory and 2) Cognitive Behavioral Theory, are clearly laid out and defined in the Preface.
As the title indicates (Dementia Care with Black and Latino Families: A Social Work Problem Solving Approach) is directed toward Social Workers, though it would also be very useful for nursing, medical, public health, anthropology and sociology students. It gives an introduction to trends in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) among diverse populations in the United States. Many of the chapters open with a vignette narrative of actual clients who are caring for someone with ADRD. These narratives provide a reader with a “human face” to the disease to counter the statistical trends.
The vignettes and case examples present reasons why people in minority groups might choose to care for a loved one with ADRD at home (rather than skilled nursing care) and the myriad of challenges that they can face while providing this care. Issues presented in the case examples are explored throughout the chapters, but it is not until Chapter 7 (Gonzalez Sanders and Fortinsky 2012:207) that the authors walk the reader through a case example, issue by issue, suggesting problem solving techniques and solutions. In earlier chapters, the reader might be left wondering how to address the presented challenges, without finding answers until much later in the book. This structure, while disconcerting at times, might serve as a useful critical thinking exercise for students.
A glaring concern from an anthropological perspective is that the authors speak extensively about culture, ethnicity, (and to a lesser extent, race) without defining these concepts. A definition of culture is eventually provided in chapter 4 (Gonzalez Sanders and Fortinsky 2012:95). These are contentious issues and it is understandable that the authors would wish to side step the complexity of these definitions, but it is necessary to address and define these concepts from the beginning. Without these definitions, the reader is left to define the terms in any way they choose, complete with the stereotypes presented in popular culture. For example, the authors use the terms “black” and “African Americans” in cultural and ethnic terms, rather than biological, however, this might not be clear to students. This concern could be rectified from an instructional standpoint if the book were augmented by articles that addressed the concept of culture, ethnicity and race in the medical field. In contrast, the authors do problematize the gendered skew of caregiving trends; most caregivers are women.
The book does offer useful problem solving techniques, sample forms, and documentation, which could be useful for social workers, nurses, physicians and researchers alike. Some of the suggested techniques, such as the “Ethnocultural Genogram” in Chapter 6 (Gonzalez Sanders and Fortinsky 2012:181-204) are adaptations of the family tree diagrams that anthropologists have historically used during ethnographic research. The adoption of the techniques and forms in this book could yield very rich and useful data for individual problem solving and identifying further social trends in Social Work practice and applied medical anthropological research alike.

Janelle J. Christensen, M.P.H., Ph.D
Palm Beach State College

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