March 20, 2012

Our HPCG Social Workers

Today is World Social Work Day! Also, for those that are not aware, the month of March is Social Work Month giving opportunities for all social work organizations to promote the significant role of social workers and the profession. At HPCG we especially have a lot to be thankful for in our social workers. Sometimes the unsung heroes with families and patients, social workers work behind the scenes to connect those we serve to much needed resources.  HPCG has many social workers on staff that work with our long-term care teams, Beacon Place, Kids Path and more. But still many people wonder…what do they do?

The hospice social worker is a certified medical social worker (MSW) who has had specialized training in end-of-life care. Social workers have in-depth knowledge and expertise in working with ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity; family and support networks; symptom management; bereavement; interdisciplinary practice; interventions across the life cycle; and navigating health care systems. They are concerned with enhancing quality of life and promoting well-being for patients, families, and caregivers. Wow! That is a lot, right?

To give a general rundown of the responsibilities our average HPCG social worker may have, let’s give some examples:

  • Assisting patients and families in making health care decisions based on personal goals of care.
  • Ensuring the patient’s end-of-life wishes are documented and known by assisting with advance directives or do not resuscitate (DNR) orders.
  • Contacting local agencies and/or community resources that may be of help to patients and families (Red Cross, Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert, etc.).
  • Assistance with insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid paperwork.
  • Assistance with funeral planning.
  • Provides educational programs to the community.
  • Pay close attention to practical yet important matters, such as identifying financial and other resources to meet basic needs such as rent, utilities or medical co-pays for medications; assisting patients and families navigate health systems and benefits.
  • Identifying emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their loved ones and finding appropriate support as needed.
  • Assistance with bridging family gaps to bring loved ones together whenever possible (for example, help obtaining temporary Visa’s for out-of-country family members or working with the Red Cross to get family members in the military back in time before a loved one dies).
  • Assisting survivors with necessary arrangements and paperwork after death occurs.
  • Assisting survivors in obtaining appropriate grief counseling.
  • Link family members or caregivers up with volunteers who can offer a respite or assist in difficult times.

Hospice social workers have to undergo extensive training before working directly with our patients and families. But being a hospice social worker takes more than special training; hospice social workers bring compassion and sensitivity to people experiencing loss and grief and a willingness to be present when someone is dying. Hospice social workers often step out of direct care to provide leadership and education, and shape research and policy in hospice and end-of-life care across the local, regional and national landscape.

Because social workers do so much for those we serve, we want to lift them up today and all month for the wonderful work they do to make end-of-life care easier for all those affected. If you know someone who works in social work, in or outside of hospice care, say a warm thank you for all their efforts. We appreciate our own social workers who are one of the many reasons people love our care. Thank YOU!

Some information provided by HFA