Integrating Hospice Social Workers into Palliative Care Planning

Integrating Hospice Social Workers into Palliative Care Planning

Making the decision to enroll yourself or a loved one in hospice care brings with it a tremendous amount of uncertainty for most people. Often, people have no idea what their responsibilities are, what the standard procedure is moving forward or what records they need to keep, let alone how to deal with all of the stress and emotional buildup that they’re likely accumulating! Simply put: most people need a guide to help them navigate the world of palliative care.

Often, the guide that emerges to assist families is a hospice social worker, and their roles tend to be encompassing to the needs of patients and their families. Generally, a hospice social worker will insert themselves into the hospice care timeline wherever they’re required, however they’re also a highly accessible resource that can be utilized at any time. From offering counseling services to explaining the clerical tasks that palliative care brings with it, hospice social workers are usually the end-all, be-all resource for assistance and understanding.

When you enter the hospice environment, a social worker is going to be your standalone first resource in understanding what’s to come. You’ll meet with a social worker right from the get-go, where the goal will be to help you both understand and plan for palliative care, for as long as it’s necessary. This can include:

  • Assisting you in enrolling in different hospice care programs and coordinating this care amongst caregivers.
  • Helping you to navigate and stay current on insurance policy plans and allotments, to understand what the options are for hospice treatment in terms of what’s covered versus what’s out of pocket.
  • Educating you on what’s included and encompassed in hospice treatment.

During this initial phase of meetings with your hospice social worker, you’re bound to get a much more in-depth look at the months to come, so you can move forward without the fear and trepidation of not knowing what’s ahead of you and your loved one.

Once you’ve become familiar with the hospice environment, the role of a social worker might shift to one that mirrors your psychosocial needs. This could include anything from offering you and your family counseling, to help communicate fears and facilitate a healthy emotional state, to providing you with information that assists in keeping stress levels low if you’re a family caregiver.

Also, in the same vein of addressing psychosocial needs for patients and families, a hospice social worker will also be on hand as a mediator. Stress runs high at times and often, it can rear its ugly head in the form of dispute, whether it’s between family members, family and staff or even the patient and their family members. Social workers are trained to quell these types of situations and help prevent them from erupting in the future.

Now, when it comes to hospice care, there are eventualities that families don’t always have time to plan for or don’t think to address while they’re making the most of time with their loved one. A hospice social worker assists families in dealing with these items—which are often hard to come to terms with—to eliminate end of life stresses and allow the family more room for proper grieving. This can include things like an advanced directive or sitting down to discuss assets and financials.

Beyond just offering assistance at integral parts during the hospice timeline, a social worker is also on hand to be a beacon of knowledge for you when you feel lost or scared. Always consider a hospice social worker a resource and never hesitate to visit with them when you’re not sure what to do next—doing so will absolutely help you in making sense of a situation that’s likely to be one of the hardest you’ll ever experience.

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