When a person enters hospice, their time in service can range from days to weeks to months and even years. The hospice team is committed to meeting the patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs throughout this duration. But there is a particular person who works as – a connector, if you will – between the patient and their family and the hospice care team. That person is the hospice social worker.
The hospice social worker advocates for the patient and their family. They are familiar with the patient, their family, and their home situation. As such, they are skillful listeners and communicators.
At Hospice of Redmond, our focus is always on the patient’s needs. Our social workers bring patients’ and their families’ concerns, preferences, and personal experiences to the hospice team. With this, the patient is continually the focus, reminding all involved of what is at the core of the hospice mission.
Listening and Supporting the Needs of the Patient and their Family
Hospice care is not about dying. It is about allowing a person to live the remainder of their life on their terms. But the end of life is wrought with emotion for the patient and their family. The hospice social worker is on the care team and provides psychosocial support. Having someone to talk with and share stories and work through the myriad emotions felt is invaluable.
The social worker’s job is to uncover signs or reports of depression, anxiety, stress, insecurities about food or shelter, and past traumatic events that may impact the patient or family member’s well-being. Having a complete picture is crucial for helping lessen any burdens on the patient and their family as they advocate on their behalf.
Therapeutic offerings such as open and reflective listening are provided during each visit and phone call with a hospice social worker. Understanding and validation are given for the full spectrum of feelings encountered as people move toward their or a loved one’s death. Various coping strategies are available, and a skilled social worker can identify the ones that will be most helpful and supportive based on identified goals. Conversely, they can also see when a person is coping in a harmful or counterproductive way and can make recommendations for more effective ways of managing feelings.
Providing Education and Understanding About the End of Life
The social worker is also an educator. This person brings clarity and understanding to an ever-changing situation. As a patient progresses toward the end of their life, the social worker helps the family understand where their loved one is in their journey and what to expect next. This is critical for assisting families in navigating the impending loss of their loved one.
The hospice social worker may also be the bearer of bad news about unavailable resources or misunderstood expectations. No matter the news or message, social workers always try to be compassionate toward those they serve. This is especially true in an environment where the end of life is imminent.
In short, the hospice social worker advocates for everyone involved, ultimately serving the patient. Whether working directly with a patient, facilitating communication between a patient and their family, patient and other agencies, patient and hospice, or even hospice team member to team member, it all comes down to the patient’s needs. At Hospice of Redmond, patients are always at the center of everything we do. We feel blessed and grateful to have an amazing team. Without them, we could not care for our patients in the same capacity.