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The role of the hospice social worker

Social workers play an important role in helping patients and their families. Facing a life-limiting illness often comes with a great deal of stress and very complex needs. Social workers are experts in these issues and are able to help patients and their loved ones adjust, cope and prepare for what comes next.

Planning for the journey ahead

There are many decisions to be made at this point in someone’s life. The team member best suited to assist with these decisions is the hospice social worker. They can answer questions, provide information about available resources and help people complete important end-of-life paperwork like advance directives and POLST forms.

Talking through these types of decisions with a social worker can bring comfort and clarity about the choices being made and help patients decide how they want to live their lives at the end of life. The social worker then serves as an advocate, helping to ensure a person’s end-of-life wishes and goals of care are met.

Offering emotional support

Social workers are one of two types of counselors available to hospice patients and their loved ones. People often experience complex emotions during the end-of-life journey. Social workers are a compassionate presence for the patient and their loved ones. It can be very helpful to have a social worker listen and validate what someone is going through.

They can also help people cope with sadness or grief by providing education about what to expect at the end of life. People often feel helpless and experience strong emotions when they don’t understand what is happening or what will happen next. The social worker can offer strategies and resources to help. 

Connecting to community resources

When facing a life-limiting illness, it is not uncommon for people to need additional support of some kind. An important role of the hospice social worker is to help patients, their loved ones and their circle of support navigate and connect to community resources. This may include:

  • Determining eligibility for financial and other types of assistance.
  • Helping apply for benefits, including Medicaid or Veterans Benefits.
  • Providing information and referrals for in-home caregiving assistance.
  • Arranging for care facility placement or respite care.

At Hospice of the Northwest, social workers are vital in providing the highest quality of care possible. They walk alongside our patients and their circles of support throughout the end-of-life journey. By tending to their emotional, social and practical needs, social workers allow our patients to live each day to the fullest, in compassion and dignity.