Social workers and chaplains are one of the first core team members that introduce hospice and end of life philosophy to the patient. The initial visit is critical in building the trust factor. Social workers generally have to rid preconceived ideas or beliefs about their discipline. Chaplains sometimes have the same issues with the complexities of spiritual backgrounds. Patients at times question if the chaplain will change their foundation of beliefs. Our social workers and chaplains are skilled, professional, and knowledgeable in assessing for the psychological, social, and spiritual needs of the patient and family. This is where the pieces of the puzzle start to come together.
Over time, social workers and chaplains, also known as Family Services, develop skills and a knowledge base that are focused on maximizing the quality of life for the patient and family, and promoting and supporting positive changes in the patient. A common practice for helpers in our society is to approach those they help as defective in some way and assume their problems result from their personal flaws or weakness. This approach can create a web of negative expectations about the patient, the patient’s environment, and the patient’s capacity to deal with the problems of daily life.
During times of upheaval and change in life, patients and families may experience seasons of deep doubt and questioning. They feel uprooted, set adrift, and utterly alone. Sometimes they respond with a deep sadness, other times with numb silence, and still at other times with rapid activity in an effort to prove to themselves that they are still in control.
At the time of initial terminal illness diagnosis or pending loss, patients and families ask various questions: Why me? Where is God? Why do good people, like my friend, have to suffer so much? What will I leave behind as a memory of myself? Beliefs that were once sustained and made sense are no longer valid. The process of major change in life can stir up unusual feelings, dreams, and memories. These experiences, if left unattended, can have long lasting effects on their well being. Our social workers and chaplains are wonderfully professional and prepared to journey with our patients and families when they are ready to seek, restore, and rediscover a vibrant social and spiritual life.
It is a belief that whenever we come face-to-face with another person, we encounter something holy, something sacred. Our staff is wonderful at speaking words of life and truth, as well as providing supportive encouragement and resources to live life to the fullest in hospice care. Our patients, families, friends, and fellow peers deserve our reverence and awe!
Our Family Services staff use a positive approach in which they are guided by an awareness of what the patient or family has accomplished, and not by any preconceived ideas of problems or weakness. Creating a positive hospice team-patient relationship is important in helping the patient and family through the demands of dealing with a terminal illness. Building on those strengths sets the bond between the hospice team and the patient and family, which gives them hope and confidence. With added confidence and education, the patient and family become more willing and able to assist the hospice team in taking control of their own care, in which they become true experts. This can and will change patients and families lives for generations to come.