What is a Hospice Social Worker?
As a Hospice Social Worker, I have the opportunity to talk to all kinds of people in all walks of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, I have found that the end-of-life journey is one that is best walked alongside others. There are so many questions, concerns, and ideas that come up that having someone to talk through these with is of great importance. One of the things that is of utmost importance as a Hospice Social Worker is to address the needs of the patient and their family. Sometimes my patients do not even know what their needs are, but as we talk about life, experiences, hopes, dreams, wishes – these needs become apparent. At this point, I am able to give my patients a gift. That gift is to help patients name their needs and explore how to address these needs.
Some needs are very concrete (e.g., ordering Meals on Wheels, helping sign up for resources, obtaining assistance in the home, etc.). Other needs become more complex as the patient comes to the realization that their life is limited. THIS is where the gift becomes evident to me. To help someone come to a peace about their own death is where my passion lies. Not only does this help the patient, but helps their loved ones as well.
As a Hospice Social Worker I have been able to:
- Sit next to a young mom who is facing the fact that she is leaving this earth before her children are, to listen as she shares all that she is going to miss in their lives, to transcribe as she dictates letters to these children so they have a long lasting legacy of their mother, to hear her face some of her deepest fears and concerns about her own mortality, and to be able to witness her acceptance of her reality.
- Be present with a Veteran who fought for his country, my country, and listen to his stories, honor him with a plaque, card and pin, show him appreciation, watch as a tear rolls down his cheek and listen as he tells of all of the reasons he doesn’t feel he deserves this, but LOVES it.
- Help a patient as she struggles to find herself at the end of her life, to help her explore who she is – not who others say she is – and to connect her with who she has always thought she was. To be able to help this same lady with communicating the things that she needs to say to her family so she can feel peaceful as she passes.
- Be at the bedside as a family says goodbye to their loved one, holding hands in prayer as dad goes on to what awaits for him, seeing that smile on his face just as he passes – which makes you realize that there has to be something more.
So, what is a Hospice Social Worker? We are a source of support, connection, strength, and love. We get to give these special gifts to those we are privileged to work alongside.
Sharla P., LSW
Medical Social Services
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care