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Hospice and Palliative Care Social Workers

“Transitions to Hospice Care—Social Workers Foster Meaningful Conversation About Dying” by Kate Jackson of Social Work Today addresses the vital role that social workers play in end-of-life care.

Palliative and hospice care are often the defining factors between a peaceful or disruptive death for both the patient and their loved ones. According to Jackson, “Social workers are key in encouraging difficult but important discussions among families and treatment providers that can help them make better palliative care decisions”.

Although the patient might not feel comfortable committing to harsh treatment for a chronic or fatal illness, they often do. Jackson claims that there are a plethora of potential reasons behind this decision: “He doesn’t wish to disappoint his family by failing to fight the good fight. Or he’ll agree simply because no one has experienced his medical condition; descripted the full range of options, including hospice; or asked how he feels or what he wants”.

The inability to communicate or effectively explain a patient’s options can tremendously affect their end-of-life treatment. Hospice and palliative care are patient-centered forms of treatment, meant to make the patient and family feel the utmost comfort possible. Unwanted, harsh treatment can deprive a patient and family of a peaceful, prepared end-of-life experience.

According to the article, the social worker faces the responsibility of facilitating an open and honest conversation surrounding a patient’s future. An informed and accessible dialogue between the patient, family and caregiver, can save the patient from unnecessary, harmful treatment. Educating caregivers is an invaluable process that can give the patient treatment they deserve.

Do you agree with this article’s view on the social worker’s role in end-of-life care? What do you think the healthcare system could be doing to encourage “the conversation”? Let us know what you think!

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