5 Things Every Social Worker Should Know About Hospice Care

Hospice care is specialized palliative care designed to help terminal patients with no hope for recovery. This stressful time must be managed by a number of health care professionals. However, in addition to the medical demands, hospice care also requires the help of a trained social worker. In fact, hospice care is one of the fastest growing areas where social workers are needed. Therefore, here are five important things that every social worker should know about hospice care.

1. A Team Effort

A social worker is just one part of a larger team when it comes to hospice care. Hospice care is not merely a medical consideration. Instead, it is managed by a team of professionals from various disciplines. This could include doctors and nurses with advanced knowledge of the medical condition and the patient’s history of treatment. On this team, social workers serve as a representative for the patient’s rights and interests to ensure that the decisions made are ultimately in line with his or her wishes.

2. Financial Counseling

Hospice care is often pursued because of medical issues, but its implications are much more widespread for patients. One of the biggest areas of concern for all patients is the cost of their medical condition and how their finances are going to be handled after death. Even if patients are insured and have ample savings, financial stress can impede the effects of hospice care. Social workers should expect to provide financial counseling as necessary, helping patients deal with health insurance, disability income and other bills. This type of counseling may not heal the body, but it can provide unparalleled peace of mind.

3. Ethical Considerations

Hospice care involves the decision to stop all treatments and accept a terminal diagnosis. The ethics of hospice care are always worth a consideration, and social workers need to be versed in the different arguments concerning withdrawing treatment. This may mean advocating on behalf of patients who wish to stop treatment, working within the medical system to legally withdraw and withhold ongoing care. Patients are often vulnerable during this time, which is why social workers need to make sure patients have the resources they need to make the right decisions for their situation.

4. Family Assistance

Most of the time, hospice care involves more than the patient. Patients could have spouses, parents, children and other family members that may be involved with the process. While social workers are there to advocate for the patient, they should also be prepared to support family members as they approach the end of their loved one’s life. This is especially important when the patient finally passes away. Social workers should be able to provide the necessary information to help with grief and bereavement for those who are left behind.

5. Individualization

More than anything, social workers need to understand that every case is different in hospice care. Although the process may involve the same paperwork, every patient has different needs during this time. Social workers need to be prepared to help with pain management, spiritual counseling, emotional support, advanced care planning and more. Although hospice care can be stressful for workers, it is important to remember the intense range of emotions patients face. It should never become routine. Every case demands a social worker’s complete attention and dedication, no matter what the situation involves.

As people live longer, hospice care is becoming more common. This means that social workers are in high demand for hospice care, and skilled workers will be ready to face the challenges head on.