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What are Social Work Services?

Social work services are forms of support offered to medical patients and their families during and after a hospital stay. They may be called a case manager, patient navigator, or therapist. They are found in inpatient and outpatient settings.

In an inpatient unit, they may help a family cope with discharge needs, including locating resources within the community. Some of those needs may include helping a family find long-term, palliative, or hospice care.

Long-term care

Long-term care is healthcare that is given to people with conditions, diseases, or injuries that make it hard for them to do basic tasks. These tasks, called activities of daily living (ADLs) include bathing, dressing, and eating. The level of long-term care that the patient needs depends on how severe their condition is. Sometimes, long-term-care patients need help eating, cleaning themselves, getting dressed, and using the bathroom. If the patient’s condition is less severe, they may only need help with household tasks like making food or using the phone.

Palliative care

Palliative (PAL-lee-ay-tiv) care is treatment that focuses on relieving discomfort, and stress of a serious illness, including:

  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems with sleep

Palliative care can improve the quality of life for seriously ill patients. In addition to helping with physical symptoms, palliative care can also help with depression, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety.

Hospice care always includes palliative care. However, many patients who don’t need hospice can benefit from palliative care.

Hospice care

Hospice care is support that is given to people who are at the end of their lives. A hospice care team gives medical care as well as psychological and spiritual support to the person who is dying. The goal of hospice care is not to cure a disease, but rather to give peace, comfort, and dignity to people who are dying.

Usually, patients are admitted into hospice when they are expected to live for six months or less. Depending on the patient needs and wants, hospice care can take place in different locations, including:

  • At home
  • The hospice center
  • In a hospital
  • In a skilled nursing facility

Other social work services

Other examples of social workers include chaplains, hospice staff, and mental health counselors. These people can also help the family of the person who is dying or has died. Having someone to talk to during these difficult events can help with the bereavement process.

Things to Know

If you think that you or a loved one need hospice or long-term care, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about options. These kinds of social work services can provide you, your family, and your loved one with support throughout the dying process, and can help you cope with the loss of a family member.