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The need for care for people in advanced stages of sickness is growing as the baby boomer generation enters retirement age and life expectancy rises in the United States. Despite its association with geriatric services, end-of-life care is concerned not only with the care of the elderly but also with the treatment of those who are suddenly hospitalized or who are expected to die from preexisting conditions.
Even So, What Does a Social Worker Do in a Hospice?
The patient, their loved ones, their carers, and the entire healthcare team are all considered in a unified and standardized approach to end-of-life care. Extreme difficulties, such as emotional distress (such as sadness, rage, and worry), physical suffering, financial stress, social isolation, and family strife, are not uncommon among patients requiring palliative and/or hospice care. Grief, loss, and the need to handle pain are all common experiences during this time of life.
For these reasons, having hospice social workers present is crucial, as they can:
- Help patients and families deal with the mental, emotional, familial, and financial stresses of terminal illness
- Educate patients about treatments and listen to their needs
- Assist in recovery from crises
- Help patients maintain social connections while facing life’s most trying circumstances
Whether the hospice care is provided in a hospital or the patient’s own home, social workers have an invaluable role in hospice as advocates for their patients and their families, and they provide a wealth of knowledge about the range of options available.
Because of the variety of situations they see, social workers in hospice and palliative care need to be adaptable. The other members of the healthcare interdisciplinary team rely heavily on them for guidance and preparation.
Hospice and Palliative Care: Key Distinctions
End-of-life care aims to enhance the well-being of patients and their loved ones in all aspects of existence, including physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering are all addressed in palliative care alongside other distressing symptoms of terminal illnesses. This type of care is complementary to curative treatment and can be given at any time during the course of an illness.
On the other hand, hospice is a type of palliative care that focuses on providing emotional and physical comfort to terminally ill patients, often when they have six months or fewer to live.
Some patients work with palliative social workers and then choose to enroll in hospice, while others do not receive palliative care until the end of life, or choose palliative care over hospice.
Duties of a Hospice Social Worker on a Daily Basis
As part of your multidisciplinary hospice care team, social workers play an important role in supporting you and your family. A hospice social worker’s job description is a long list of duties: to listen, offer guidance, and link families up with local resources, in addition to a physician, nurse, assistant, chaplain, pharmacist, and vigil volunteers. A shoulder to weep on, someone who can make sure you’re connected with the correct resources to help you through your pain, can be just as comforting as the directness of the doctor or the attentiveness of the RN.
A social worker in a hospice can aid patients and their loved ones in many different ways. Allow me to present a few for your consideration.
Evaluations of Psychosocial Well-Being
Psychosocial assessments are performed on patients and their families by hospice social workers to identify and meet emotional, spiritual, and social needs.
Care providers absolutely need this kind of data in order to come up with a personalized treatment strategy that takes the patient’s feelings and needs into account. The social workers gather the necessary information through the following examinations.
- Medical history and current state;
- Past treatment regimens and current health care teams, including primary care physicians, specialists, and nurses;
- Information regarding their mental and emotional well-being, such as the presence or absence of psychological, emotional, or behavioral disorders that have an impact on their physical health; and
- Social, cultural, monetary, and family factors, such as monetary difficulties, family strife, and social participation (or lack thereof)
After doing an assessment, social workers offer specific forms of emotional and social help that patients and their families may require. They utilize the data to conduct risk assessments, which are highly specialized evaluations used to calculate the probability of a very bad outcome for a patient.
When patients or their loved ones are experiencing a mental, emotional, social, or family crisis, hospice social workers are there to help.
Events that generate grief beyond the capacity of humans to deal with them in the short term are generally understood to be crises. Trauma and thoughts of suicide can be the outcome of a wide range of adverse experiences, such as the sudden deterioration of a preexisting condition, challenging family conflicts, physical assault, neglect, or verbal abuse.
Care coordination services include social workers communicating with other members of the care treatment team during times of crisis to ensure that everyone is working together to alleviate the patient’s suffering.
Hospice care social workers frequently employ a technique called narrative therapy that has been shown to be beneficial to grieving clients: talking about their own life experiences. Patients and their loved ones might both benefit from the psychosocial support offered by this method.
To help their clients gain a more holistic understanding of who they are and how they got to where they are, narrative therapists emphasize the significance of incorporating their patients’ stories.
In order to process their lives, explain their choices, and make sense of their journeys, many people need to share their tales with others.
Medical Care Coordination
Hospice social worker duties often include helping families find the support services they require. Delivery of medical equipment like a hospital bed to the house, access to legal aid for things like power of attorney and advance directives, and the identification of caring support to relieve family members are all examples.
Through a home safety evaluation, the social worker can advise the patient’s loved ones on how to best ensure the patient’s well-being in their own dwelling. Patients with limited mobility may need less attention paid to potential tripping and sliding dangers, while those with more mobility may benefit from a more systematic approach to their medications. Because of the emotional strain, family and friends may fail to notice potentially dangerous situations at home.
The hospice social worker’s responsibilities extend beyond the patient’s final days to include assisting the family with funeral plans, paperwork, and other delicate matters. Hospice social workers play a crucial role in coordinating a patient’s care with other medical and social service providers.
Educating Patients With Helpful Resources
Patients and their loved ones are assisted by social workers who specialize in hospice care. In addition, they teach others who have never dealt with death but could benefit from such knowledge about death and dying. With the aid of the nurses and/or doctors, the social workers guide these people through the decision-making process. In addition, they assist patients and their loved ones in locating and making use of appropriate resources. For instance, they encourage their patients to enroll in health insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid. They also help people find local support groups for things like illness and loss, as well as free therapy and spiritual communities.
In addition, they are crucial in guiding patients and families through discharge plans to guarantee continuous care.
Mental Health Counseling
An emotional lifeline is one of the social worker’s lesser-known but most-appreciated functions. It is common practice for the social worker to serve as the family’s first point of contact when seeking out a hospice’s spiritual care or bereavement support services.
The social worker may serve as a fortress of support for the family. Your manager on the job. protector of your sanity. The hospice worker is equipped to help the patient and family deal with anxiety, make decisions, grieve a loss, learn about death, and express feelings. Primary interventions include counseling, case management, and life coaching, as well as bereavement care and review.
They may employ a number of techniques from the field of clinical and hospice social work to aid patients in self-reflection, emotion regulation, and pattern change. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, supportive psychotherapy, expressive arts therapy, and narrative therapy are all examples of methods.
Your social worker can be of assistance in circumstances with more complicated concerns that need counseling and mediated communication. If the social worker determines that extra psychological counseling is necessary, they will make referrals to qualified area professionals.
This is one of the easier choices to make while planning for the end of life. Since hospice social workers are usually covered by medical insurance providers, this decision might not burn a hole in your pockets. When it’s time, pick up the phone and call All American Hospice for the best and most affordable services for you and your loved ones. Remember, you’re not alone; help is a call away.