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How social workers are integral to end-of-life care

Mar 22, 2021 2:50:46 PM

March is National Social Work Month and it’s the perfect time to recognize the contributions of social workers to palliative and hospice care. 

For those who have had a loved one in end-of-life care, you probably know just how integral social workers and case managers are. These individuals play an important role in helping patients and families navigate a difficult time.

In the U.S. healthcare system as a whole, social work is a key part of all areas of the continuum of care. Throughout a person’s care journey, social workers provide services to patients and families that have them navigate care transitions and ensure that their well-being is taken care of. When it comes to end-of-life care, social workers also serve as advocates for vulnerable populations, like the elderly and those in hospice care, ensuring that they have access to the healthcare they need.

Importance of Hospice Social Work | HSWO

What role do social workers play in end-of-life care?

Social workers involved in end-of-life care are present for a large part of a patient’s care continuum and they focus primarily on the needs of their patient and families.

Key services that social workers provide include: 

  • Advocating for patients and families
  • Ensuring patients are in a safe setting, free of neglect or abuse
  • Facilitating community education and workshops for organizations and providers
  • Providing counseling for patients and their families
  • Emergency crisis intervention and conflict mediation
  • Educating all parties on coping skills and non-medicinal symptom management
  • Coordinating care transitions 
  • Caregiver support and advance care planning
  • Providing advice and resources for difficult legal issues like benefits and finances
  • Communicating with providers and families about cultural care requirements

Hospice can be extremely taxing on a patient and their family. A social worker is present to help them make and accept decisions around end-of-life plans and help families grieve in a healthy way after their loved one passes. 

Social workers are an integral part of a care team because they can help to guide patients and families through the difficult decisions and challenges they may face. They can provide assistance with managing mental and emotional well-being, as well as navigating family discussions around end-of-life care. 

Social work in palliative and hospice care helps to create a cohesive approach to care that involves all parties — the patient, their family, and their care providers.

Compassionate care for all

Because social workers have unique, in-depth knowledge of diverse economic, ethnic, and cultural environments, they can better identify appropriate care settings and bridge gaps in healthcare. Social workers also have the ability to implement changes in policy at local, state, and even federal levels in order to improve care for patients. End-of-life care can look very different for individuals and social workers can help ensure that patients receive compassionate care from their providers. 

Hospice social work is an all-encompassing role that requires these dedicated individuals to establish close connections with those they care for, while maintaining strong boundaries to ensure they assist patients in a realistic way. Each patient and their family face a different situation than the next and social workers have to quickly adjust to each environment while keeping other members of a care team informed. 

Being a hospice social worker means being a part of a deeply stressful and emotional time for everyone involved. However, this role also allows them to create deep connections with patients and family members as they celebrate life stories.

We’re here for you

At Hospice of Southwest Ohio, our social workers are here to guide, listen, and support families . We have an amazing team of professionals who are passionate about delivering high quality, compassionate care every day. HSWO offers hospice, palliative and in-home primary care in and around the greater Cincinnati area in Clermont County, Butler County, Warren County and Hamilton County. Call today at (513) 770-0820.


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Hospice of Southwest Ohio
Written by Hospice of Southwest Ohio

Hospice of Southwest Ohio provides care, comfort and compassion for those facing a life-limiting illness. We have a dedicated team of nurses, caregivers and volunteers whose main goal is to keep your loved ones at peace – in a place surrounded by care and compassion. We serve four counties around Cincinnati, Ohio, with the highest reputation for treating patients with dignity and respect.

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