End-of-life care is a difficult subject for patients and loved ones to come to terms with. However, when there is addiction involved in either party, Lindsey Getz of Social Work Today notes that the process can be much more complicated. According to Getz, addiction “…changes the family dynamic and introduces some important considerations for the caregivers providing end-of-life treatment”.
Suzanne Young Bushfield, PhD, MSW, and Brad DeFord, PhD, MDiv, coauthors of End –of-Life Care and Addiction: A Family Systems Approach, explain why this situation can cause strain on an addict: “What happens is any family system is a tension of being your own person vs. belonging to a system. That automatically creates some anxiety…it’s how a family system manages that anxiety that matters.”
Changes in the family system can easily be both anxiety and stress inducing for all, and the process of end-of-life care can certainly be a big change. According to DeFord: “When someone has an addiction, it’s common for families to construct façades so that society views them like ‘everyone else’…a terminal diagnosis cracks the shell around the family and its façade.”
Along with all of these dynamics, end-of-life care and addiction can be complicated for many other reasons as well. Getz notes that these factors can include medication tolerance, drug abuse, experimentation, and a history of addiction in the caregiver’s life.
In order to counteract a potential negative situation, Bushfield says: “I would urge social workers to put the end-of-life care focus on emotional and spiritual needs as well as physical needs…not only those of the patient but of the entire family”.
Do you agree with this article on addiction and end-of-life care? What do you think that social worker’s job should be within in the process? Let us know in the comments below!