What does a hospice social worker do?

Throwback Thursday – March 2016

Samaritan social worker Colleen Fritsch, MSW, LCSW, gathered four generations of John’s* family round him to present a certificate and medal recognizing his military service decades ago. Despite John’s exhaustion, he began to recount war stories that he had never shared before.

“It really meant something to him to recollect those stories with his children and grandchildren,” says Colleen. “This work brings closure to many veterans.”

Colleen’s work with veteran hospice patients is just one way she and her social work colleagues are “Forging Solutions Out of Challenges” – the theme of this 2016’s national Social Work Month in March.

In honor of this month (2016), we recognize the talents and compassion of Samaritan’s social workers, who play a key role in caring for the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of our patients, their families, and caregivers.

Samaritan’s hospice and bereavement social workers help with the intense challenges that come with serious illness or the end-of-life journey. They provide a vast array of support, resources, and solutions that may include:

  • Education on a particular illness or the end-of-life process
  • Counseling on both dying and bereavement
  • Support in helping children understand what is happening to loved ones
  • Help in navigating closure for complex family relationships
  • Assistance in exploring non-medical ways of relieving pain and anxiety
  • Connections to needed resources, such as home care, transportation, or connecting to VA and other benefits
  • Information on the emotional and physical challenges of caregiving
  • The completion of advance directives
  • The determination of funeral arrangements

Social work is a true calling that requires solid professional skills, a determined tenacity in resolving complex issues, and the rare gift of personal compassion that creates a special bond between the social worker, patient, and family.

Samaritan social workers tailor their care to individual patients. Though the challenges of serious illness can be daunting, sometimes the best solution can involve a chance to escape the worry and anxiety. “I try to bring some kind of joy and laughter to every visit, to leave the patient or family member a bit lighter so they can better cope with what they are dealing with,” shares Samaritan social worker Sherri Brake.

Sherri recently worked with Peg*, an 80-year-old patient who had practiced yoga every day prior to her illness. Noting Peg’s frustration over her physical limitations, Sherri provided her with chair yoga videos to get her moving again in a way that was possible for her.

During one of their conversations, Peg told Sherri that she did not want a funeral, because she didn’t want to miss the party. Together they planned a “Mustaches and Martinis Pre-Death Party” – a nod to the silly mustaches Sherri often wears at visits to evoke a smile, and to Peg’s lifelong love of a martini after a hard day of teaching school.

Dying is not easy, but at Samaritan, the individualized connections and relationships our staff builds can ease the process. On behalf of our patients, their families and caregivers, thank you to all of our social workers for all you do – in March and year-round!

*Name changed for privacy.