What does a hospice social worker do?
by Patty Ayers
My main role as a hospice social worker is to provide support to patients and their families from admission to our service and throughout the remainder of their journey. Support: that’s a pretty broad and even hard-to-define word.
I am a medical social worker, professionally trained to work with the hospice team to assist the patient and his or her family with many of the psychosocial issues and emotions that they may experience during the dying process. We are trained therapists, and therefore can assist with emotional support and provide ways of coping. Another way we help is by identifying which type of community or financial resources patients and their families may need and assist them in connecting to the right ones. Last, social workers are advocates for their patients and can help them make their own decisions about where they wish to spend their last days, whether at home or in a facility.
I would like to say that these are the reasons that I became a hospice social worker, but it would not be altogether true. I first got into hospice not really knowing exactly what hospice was or even exactly what diseases were considered terminal. I had been a support group facilitator for friends and family members of cancer patients, so I was aware of the many feelings and issues that caregivers dealt with. I joined Holy Redeemer Hospice with degrees, skills, and even experience—but not hospice experience.
It didn’t take me long to learn more about hospice and that terminally ill people and their families benefit so much from the services the entire hospice team provides. Mostly I learned that I meet the most amazing people and feel really honored to be present with them at such an unforgettable time of their lives.