Tending to the Psychosocial Components of Care
By Judith R. Peres, LCSW-C
Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network
The current effort to recast the health care “system” to deliver person-centered care is an important development. This movement toward person-centered care is an opportunity to showcase the multifaceted strengths of social workers. In particular, the psychosocial components of that care are the very ones that assist with shared decision making, ease caregiver burden, smooth transitions and help avoid hospital readmissions. Social workers are trained to provide for the psychological, social, emotional, and practical needs of people and their families.
There is general agreement that the goal of palliative care is to optimize quality of life through the control of physical symptoms and attention to individuals’ and families psychosocial and spiritual needs. One distinguishing factor of palliative care is the concept that care is delivered by an interdisciplinary team. Social workers are essential members of interdisciplinary teams and provide support to both people & families/caregivers and the team because of their practice knowledge. Social workers are at the forefront in caring for people facing advanced chronic illnesses and their families. They are key team players in hospice and palliative care programs, promoting quality psychosocial care, advocating for person and family concerns, building consensus in healthcare decision making, and supporting ethical practice. Social workers serve to help people find the best ways to discuss their illness with significant others and the health care team.
Tending to the psychosocial components of palliative care is critical in assessing and addressing the multidimensional nature of pain and suffering – the cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual and cultural experiences faced by people and their families. Social workers assist people in learning new ways of coping with the stress of advanced illness and help manage feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, worry or depression that can be associated with advanced illness.
Social work is known as the profession that focuses on strengths and building resiliency. Providing social work services on a team helps people and families recognize that it is a gift to grow old and know that, even when quite dependent on others, we can live a meaningful, comfortable life.
Judith Peres is a clinical social worker and Medicare and Medicaid policy analyst. Review the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network for more information on social work and palliative care: http://www.swhpn.org/