In honor of National Social Work Month 2018 theme, “Social Workers: Leaders. Advocates. Champions.”, get a taste of the significant responsibilities of social workers in the hospice profession.
“It is incredibly profound to have the opportunity to be present with people as they die, and to be able to add value to their lives,” reveals Unity Hospice Social Worker Stephanie Lubin. “This is something they might not otherwise receive if hospice wasn’t in their life.”
March is National Professional Social Work Month. It’s opportunity to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society. And although many of us know what social workers do, there is one small niche of social work that can get overlooked: the field of hospice.
Hospice as an entity is a very collaborative work, dependent on a whole team of individuals—including medical staff, spiritual support and volunteers—to provide comprehensive care to individuals at the end stages of their lives. It is in the hands of the social workers to act as overall trouble shooters, tending to the psychosocial and emotional needs of patients and their families.
Often times, this means providing emotional support and end-of-life education. Sometimes it’s finding a caregiver when family members work full-time, or figuring out how to get food in the fridge on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s helping a patient apply for Medicaid and other insurances, or helping prepare funeral arrangements, or living wills and other advance directives. It could mean finding suitable housing for patients. Sometimes it’s even trying to expedite visas for family members from foreign countries who want to see their loved one during their last days.
But it isn’t just the patients that are under the care of Unity Hospice, it’s the family and caregivers, too.
Case in point: Unity Hospice Palliative Care Social Worker Sarah Hanson tells the story of her support for the spouse of a prior patient. Both the patient and his wife were blind, yet living a highly-functional life in downtown Chicago. Despite their success, the wife was dependent on her husband throughout their life together, and felt apprehensive about her independence once he was no longer with her.
Hanson knew that the wife had spent a block of time away from home during which she attended school for the visually impaired. “Knowing this about her background, I knew she had the ability to continue living a successful life after her husband passes,” explained Hanson. “All I had to do was convince her that she had that ability. I worked with her, and she slowly started to build her confidence.”
“It’s amazing what a heavy dose of encouragement does for someone,” added Hanson.
Unity Hospice Social Worker Erin Sanders weighs in on her experiences helping families. “What I find most rewarding is when I’ve been able to assist a patient’s family through the process of hospice for their loved one. It’s an experience like none other.”
The dying process is a very private matter. Sanders adds, “We are invited into this very intimate era in a person’s life. And we don’t take that opportunity lightly, or for granted.”
As Lubin reflected on her prior experiences in the medical field, she states that “the benefit of working in hospice, ironically, is that you do have the opportunity to develop a deeper more profound relationship with the patient, as well as all of the extended family.”
“We are afforded the opportunity to embark on this journey with them. And it’s never the same thing twice. Serving as a hospice patient’s social worker is really a varied role from the benign to the profound,” concludes Lubin.
To learn more about hospice social work, contact your local Unity Hospice.
About Unity Hospice
Founded in 1992, Unity Hospice is a family owned and operated hospice and palliative care company committed to providing comprehensive care, support and education to people facing a life-limiting illness, those who care for them and the community. Unity Hospice offers care of the highest quality by licensed and competent staff in accordance with laws & regulations and accepted standards of practice. With the dedication to make their patients’ days comfortable, Unity Hospice provides an interdisciplinary approach to each individual and family, in which they go above and beyond everyday to meet their needs. For more information, contact us at 888.949.1188. More information can also be found on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages.