Understanding The Role and Value of Hospice CarePosted on November 17, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Blog, Caregiver Education, Caregiving, Education, Hospice & Palliative Care
What you should know about hospice social workers
A common question families ask is, “Why do I need a hospice social worker?” When faced with a terminal diagnosis, hospice social workers are a vital member of the healthcare team. Hospice is a medical program of care for patients who are no longer seeking aggressive treatment for a terminal illness. Hospice care emphasizes quality of life vs. quantity of life & provides care wherever the patient calls home.
Social workers provide emotional support, crisis intervention, and counseling to patients, their families and caregivers. Nearing death is a vulnerable and intimate time in families’ lives. Social workers facilitate communication. It is not uncommon for patients and families to protect each other. They may refrain from talking about the death to not upset the other party. Providing education and helping to say goodbye prepares family members for the upcoming loss.
While the hospice doctor and nurse manage the patient’s medical care, the chaplains provide spiritual care. The Social workers often help with the day to day realities of dealing with illness. Social workers help families obtain groceries, pay bills, find caregivers if family members are unable to and mediate family conferences. Social workers coordinate resources, some local such as Reno Cancer Foundation or Care Chest. Some resources are regional like the Dream Foundation, which provides a “wish” to dying adults.
Hospice is covered by Medicare/Medicaid and most insurance providers. However, social workers help with financial assistance when patients do not qualify for those programs. Social workers help navigate long-term care policies for additional caregiver help.
Social workers intervene with the discomfort, depression and anxiety that can accompany a disease process. Teaching relaxation techniques or leading guided imagery sessions are two methods to help reduce stress for both the patient and family member.
Care giving is hard work. A big part of a social worker’s role is helping to prevent caregiver “burnout” or arrange for care of the caregiver if it becomes too much. Hospice volunteers give their time to allow caregivers a break.
Patients who live alone (or have no caregiver) may need the hospice team even more. Home Health aides and assists with personal care, while team member visits help to alleviate the social isolation that comes with illness.
Advance directives are documents outlining what kind of care a patient may want or refuse. A Durable Power of Attorney names a spokesperson if the patient should be unable to speak for him/herself. Social workers facilitate discussion with the patient, family, and hospice team about these important decisions and advocate for patient wishes to be honored.
The grief over the loss of a loved one can fee l overwhelming. Social workers facilitate support groups, make follow up calls and visit the bereaved. The time following a death is usually a busy one for the family. It can take 4-6 weeks for the realization of a loss sinks in. Hospice bereavement support doesn’t end after a patient’s death, it continues for at least 13 months afterwards. End-of-life care encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of a patient and family. This is accomplished by the hospice team; social workers are an integral part of that team.