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What Does the Hospice Social Worker Do?

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Updated January 31, 2010

Question: What Does the Hospice Social Worker Do?
The social worker is an essential part of the hospice team but many people wonder, what does the hospice social worker do?
Answer:

The hospice social worker is a certified medical social worker (MSW) who has had specialized training in end-of-life care. Social workers have in-depth knowledge and expertise in working with ethnic, cultural, and economic diversity; family and support networks; multidimensional symptom management; bereavement; interdisciplinary practice; interventions across the life cycle; and navigating health care systems. They are concerned with enhancing quality of life and promoting well-being for patients, families, and caregivers.

In the hospice and palliative care setting, the social worker may help with any number of the following:

  • Assisting patients and families in making health care decisions based on personal goals of care.
  • Ensuring the patient's end-of-life wishes are documented and known by assisting with advance directives, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, or POLST forms.
  • Contacting local agencies and/or community resources that may be of help to patients and families (i.e. hospice agencies, Meals-on-Wheels, Life Alert, etc.).
  • Assistance with insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid paperwork.
  • Assistance with funeral planning.
  • Identifying emotional and spiritual needs of the patient and their loved ones and finding appropriate support as needed.
  • Assistance with bridging family gaps to bring loved ones together whenever possible (for example, help obtaining temporary Visa's for out-of-country family members).
  • Assisting survivors with necessary arrangements and paperwork after death occurs.
  • Assisting survivors in obtaining appropriate grief counseling.
  • Identifying other needs of the patient and their support circle and assisting as needed.

Typically, one social worker is assigned to a patient to provide continuity of care. The social worker will build a relationship with the hospice patient and their support system and assist in areas of need they identify together. Most hospice agencies have a social worker on-call for urgent patient and family needs after-hours as well.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Death and Dying
  4. Palliative Care
  5. The Palliative Care Team
  6. Social Worker - The Hospice Social Worker

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