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A Guiding Light at the End of Life

Exploring the unique role of social workers in hospice.

March is Social Work Month, a period for recognizing the 680,000 social workers who empower and advocate on the behalf of vulnerable individuals and communities all over the country. VITAS® Healthcare understands the value of their contributions intimately, as each VITAS hospice team is staffed with a social worker to ensure that the needs of patients and families are met—a model that has proved beneficial since our first patient over 40 years ago.

Social workers are true jacks of all trades: They help patients navigate the complex healthcare system, offer supportive counseling and advocate for patient decisions. This doesn’t mean employing a one-size-fits-all approach to patient care—hospice social workers perform a complete assessment for each patient to develop an individualized care plan. Social workers are present in nearly every sector where social welfare is at stake, providing a combination of emotional support, resource management, community organizing and service coordination. VITAS social workers are no different, undertaking many roles to help patients and their families feel understood and respected. For instance, a VITAS social worker may help a new patient update their will and establish end-of-life care preferences, or meet with the family caregiver to gauge their stress level and determine if additional support if necessary. They can help align the patient’s end-of-life goals and the physician’s plan of care, contact distant family members, or plan a party for a patient. Even seemingly small gestures go a long way in improving the patient’s quality of life. Hospice social workers can be a calming force for families as their loved one approaches death, offering supportive counseling and helping them through the process of anticipatory grief. They can also connect families with funeral, cremation and/or burial professionals. Countless patients and families can attest that social workers serve as the catalyst that makes good things happen. If you know a social worker, show them your appreciation during National Social Work Month. If you’re a social worker, let VITAS be the first to thank you for everything you do. For more information about end-of-life care options, call VITAS Healthcare at 866.759.6695 or visit VITAS.com. Article written by By Cathy Carlson, general manager for VITAS® Healthcare in Chicago

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Illinois - Chicago North/West Suburbs & DuPage County
Illinois - Chicago Southland, Will County & NW Indiana