We sat looking at each other, not knowing what to do. Dealing with our parents' declining health had left us exhausted and unsure how to get more help. We didn't know at the time, but who we needed the most was a social worker.
The role of a social worker is often misunderstood. Social Workers are sometimes painted as those who protect vulnerable children, work for the government, and interfere in other people's lives. In truth, Social Workers are professionals who support people through difficult times. They advocate for others' rights, help address basic needs, and provide counseling, and at the end of life, are essential members of the hospice care team.
Hospice is a specialized type of care that focuses on the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at the end of life. In hospice, the focus is on comfort and quality of life. A team of professionals, including a Nurse, Physician, Social Worker, Spiritual Counselor, and more, work together to care for the patient as well as the entire family.
Like all hospice care team members, the social worker is there to walk this journey with you every step of the way. The services they provide are personalized to what best supports the patient and family and adapts to changing needs. They specialize in listening, understanding, and problem-solving to assist with coordinating care, linking families with essential resources, education, and teaching, counseling – all while providing guidance, reassurance, and emotional support.
Understanding is Key
The social worker seeks to understand how to best support the patient by continually assessing their physical, emotional, and mental needs, their social situation, and the relationships in their life. After spending time with the patient, a social worker can complete an assessment, which is then used by the entire interdisciplinary team to determine the best resources, programs, interventions, guidance, and education for the patient and their family members. Through ongoing assessments, a social worker knows the patient, their family, and supportive social circle. As the patient's health decreases, their needs change, and the social worker plays a crucial role in communicating these needs to the rest of the team. A good social worker is continually evaluating to ensure the patient is receiving quality care and support.
It's Your Journey
Everyone experiences life through their lens. Each of us has a particular way we like things done, how we celebrate, and even how we mourn. A social worker understands this and begins each new relationship with a patient and their family members by taking the time to get to know the patient and their family or social circle. They help facilitate care how the patient and their family deem the "best way," not the way the social worker or the healthcare system may think is best. The social worker takes the time to understand their needs and honor and respect all the patient's wishes.
A social worker is always there, present, listening, and looking for solutions. Knowing there is someone there to answer questions or even help ask the difficult ones is comforting and makes taking the next steps when dealing with hospice a little easier. As the time approaches to start thinking about hospice care, know you will have support, you will have a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to listen. You will have a social worker with you every step of the way. You will not be alone.