Each and every day social workers throughout the world work tirelessly to make our society a better place to live. Lending their expertise, talent, and tenacity to those who need it most. In March, we celebrate National Social Worker’s Month, and this lends as an opportunity to shine the spotlight on those who work in hospice care.
When we witness a loved one in their last few months of life it can be difficult on many levels, but a hospice social worker strives to help both patients and their families through the end-of-life process. The hospice team, which includes a licensed social worker, treats each patient as a whole, addressing their needs-physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The social worker, who’s assigned a patient upon admission, also helps loved-ones and caregivers navigate the practical and emotional issues that arise throughout the end-of-life journey.
Throughout our lives, most of us likely won’t have any interaction with a social worker. In fact, many might have negative thoughts when they hear the term. Sometimes assuming these individuals are only called in when something goes wrong, in hospice it’s a different story. Hospice social workers are working constantly to build community relationships and connect patients and families with viable resources that can help them. They are also on the lookout for future needs and possible areas of concern to ensure continuity of care and prevent crisis situations from arising. Perhaps the most difficult aspect to their role is discussing the most difficult and intimate of topics with people when no one else wants to. Social workers help prepare patients and families with knowledge of what they can generally expect during the dying process. One of the scariest things about this can be fear of the unknown. Social workers are often found providing support at the bedside, seeking not to guide the journey or determine the route, but instead to join their patients as they travel the final path of their choice.
The hospice social worker role is a labor of love and a daily juggling act to ensure patients have the best care possible. A hospice social worker is an indispensable member of a great hospice care team.