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3 Surprising Roles Of a Hospice Social Worker
Most patients and families are not experts in the end-of-life experience. A hospice social worker typically has walked with many families and can use that experience to help them navigate the process. Here are three things hospice social workers do that might surprise you.
- Check for safety in the home: Are there loose rugs that someone could trip on? Is the path clear for a patient’s walker? Is there someone smoking around a patient who uses oxygen? Our eyes are going all over the place, making sure there are no safety hazards for the patient and their caregiver. But we also look for pictures and mementos that help to tell a patient’s story. Our goal is to establish trust, so we look for an ice breaker that can help us share some common ground. “Oh, is that a picture of you on your wedding day? Can you tell me about it?”
- Assist with funeral arrangements: There is so much to do when planning a funeral or memorial service. Social workers are experts at checking off the boxes. We provide resources for families to choose a funeral home or crematorium and work with the Veterans Administration for a military burial. We make sure that when the time comes, their loved one’s body is lovingly and respectfully cared for.
- Guard the patient’s wishes: This is the number one priority of a social worker. Even though the families may want them to live forever, what the hospice team must keep at the forefront is the patient’s wants and needs. We believe the patient has the right to say how they want to live their final days, where they want to die. If they want to go out listening to Van Halen, we’ll make it happen. Social workers do their best to celebrate the patient’s life. We have arranged early graduations of their children and bedside weddings. One last crab feast. A final trip to Ocean City. If it can be done, we can work with the family to make it happen.
Social workers are an important link in the connection with the full hospice care team. We try to pair up with the nurse, chaplain, nursing assistant or nurse practitioner on visits. Not only does it help us learn about the patient from other team members, but it underlines for the patients and their families that we are on their team.
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- Deciding On CPR Options Before a Medical Crisis
- Hospice Chaplains Walk Into a Culture As Intimate Strangers