Insights from: Stephanie Tintner, LCSW, CDP, BCPA – Director of Ancillary Services, Transitions Hospice
Palliative Care is a specialized discipline that typically evokes thoughts around pain management, symptom management, and coordination of care models. Another vital aspect of Palliative Care is the psychosocial support provided, and the impact it can have on overall well-being and quality of life for patients. Oftentimes, the psychosocial impact of chronic and serious diseases is not prioritized, or in some cases even minimized, by healthcare providers. Doctors and specialists are primarily focused on treating conditions and symptoms, and they may fail to see the emotional and psychological impact these conditions can have. This is where the support of a social worker is imperative.
Palliative Care social workers are primarily concerned with the psychological and emotional well-being of patients and their family/caregivers. Not addressing these issues may lead to negative coping mechanisms, increased complexity of disease, decreased communication and relationship breakdowns among patients and their support systems. Addressing these psychosocial needs encourages the patient and family to express their thoughts and feelings about the disease and allows the social worker to present healthy coping strategies to anyone who may be struggling.
One cannot provide whole-person care without addressing psychosocial and resource needs. The Palliative Care social worker provides resources and advocacy for services that may reduce stressors and improve the patient and family’s quality of life. They also assess the patient and family’s understanding of their illness and provide additional educational resources if needed.
Palliative Care patients continue to undergo treatments and make important medical decisions, the social worker can help ensure the patient and family are informed on their options and help direct care based on the patient’s goals. Many people find themselves navigating the healthcare system alone, but with the help of a Palliative Care team and an experienced social worker, Palliative patients can feel confident in their care decisions and experience unwavering support throughout their journey.