Social workers play a big role in hospital frontline services for patients and family members. According to a 2006 survey of licensed social workers, hospitals are the most common primary employment setting for them (Whitaker, Weismiller, Clark & Wilson, 2006.)
Their primary role helps patients and families understand an illness, come to terms with the emotions of a diagnosis, and provide counseling on the decisions. They are essential participants in the hospital medical teams; collaborating with doctors, nurses, and related health professionals. Social workers help the medical team members to recognize the emotional aspects of a patient’s illness.
In an interview with Nancy Kriseman, a licensed Geriatric Social Worker and author of The Mindful Caregiver Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey, she helps and supports patients navigate through the confusing issues in elder care.
After helping her father through numerous hospital discharge events and seeing how stressful the process was for him, Ms. Kriseman found a new passion. Advocating patients, especially those living with dementia, became her focus.“A useful tip for every family: Become a partner with the facility that cares for your loved one. No matter if it’s an acute-care hospital, an assisted living facility, a home care agency or a rehab center, collaborate with them,” advises Ms. Kriseman.
Unfortunately, medical teams don’t advocate enough for older people because they feel they’re going to die anyhow.But as loved ones move through the health care system, family members take on a lot of pressure and need to learn fast. Since hospitals base their care on the Medicare guidelines and requirements, sometimes a patient may feel their discharge from the hospital is too early. The patient and family can request an appeal. Find out more here.
There’s a significant need for patient advocates in the hospital settings. Sometimes the hospital will offer trained volunteers to help patients navigate the system. But Ms. Kriseman thinks social workers are more qualified due to their counseling education and training.Social workers have a keen eye for emotional upset and distress plays a big part in health care. The patients and families deal with many aspects of illness. They have to learn about the disease; the diagnosis, how to care for their health, the steps to heal, and how to recovery safely.
“When you have a child, parents will research for schools and even interview the administrative staff. A young mom and dad will visit several schools, even kindergartens, before choosing one. Be that diligent for older loved ones too. Research the types of care that’s available before one’s needed,” suggests Kriseman.Once a surgery is scheduled, but prior to hospital admission, the family should start looking for post-care.
Be a partner, not an adversary. Patients have the rights, especially to have a safe discharge.......Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and healthcare market.