Being a Hospice Social Services Provider has brought so much satisfaction and fulfillment to my life. I can’t think of any other endeavor that would allow me so much opportunity to give and receive the blessing of peace during a person’s final journey from this world.
One of the experiences that I consider a highlight of my week is when we get a new patient and I make my initial visit to introduce myself and offer my services. When I explain to a patient and their families the things I can help with they are often amazed and so relieved to know that there is help and that they are not alone. Also, that there is support for the emotional struggle they face.
Social work in hospice is designed to meet the very specific needs of each family. It might be assistance with legal matters like advance directives or Power of Attorney, arranging Meals on Wheels, or maybe a patient needs direction on communicating with their loved ones about their priorities and values and what they want their last days or weeks or even months to look like. My favorite thing is honoring our Veteran patients and families with a recognition ceremony, which I also coordinate.
One family I had the honor of working with was having a very difficult time communicating about what was happening, avoiding any discussion about or acknowledgment of the fact that their family member was dying. The fear and sorrow were in the room, but went unspoken. My training and experience help me to know when to ask the hard questions to open up dialogue. When I asked the patient, “are you scared?” there was a small gasp from the family and a look of relief washed over the patient’s face. He shared that he was scared and proceeded to share his fears with me and his family; thereby, allowing feelings to come to the surface, be processed, and coped with. Often times naming your fears makes them far less powerful and this was true for this man. By the time I left, the family was sharing stories and even laughter and the communication dynamic had shifted to a more open and healing environment. This is a great example of why hospice is a holistic approach to patient care. We are here for more than the physical needs.
If you have a loved one that could benefit from hospice, I encourage you to reach out as early as possible so that the many benefits of each discipline, including social services, can be utilized to the fullest potential. Get more information.
Cheri F. S.
Medical Social Services
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC