Social workers and palliative care

2018-04-05 06:03
Dianne Waddington

Dianne Waddington

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At Helderberg Hospice we specialise in palliative care.

By definition, palliative care doesn’t look for a cure for a disease, as it is the active and holistic care of patients whose disease no longer responds to curative treatment.

Our aim is to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Our comprehensive holistic care embraces medical, nursing, psychosocial and spiritual aspects.

Patients and their families affected by terminal illness are confronted by a number of difficulties, which may include family conflict, unresolved relationships, depression, anger and anxiety. Added to this are worries about practical issues, such as financial strain, employment, future care and the care of minor children in the family.

It is important to note that our social workers do not remove children, but that they work with families to ensure timeous planning for the care of potential orphans and vulnerable children. Should children be in need of alternative care, our social workers refer to child and family welfare organisations in the area for further follow-up and intervention.

It can be traumatic for the patient and their family to accept their circumstances and continue the difficult process of end-of-life planning for their loved one. Our professional social workers are highly trained and experienced, with a wealth of knowledge and skill, while their true worth lays in their caring hearts.

As valued members of an interdisciplinary team, they represent the patient and family’s wishes at every team meeting. Their goal is to ensure each family receives care tailored to fit their particular needs.

Their services include personal and family counselling, future care planning, spiritual support, access to community resources and other specialised agencies, and assistance with legal issues such as birth certificates, identity documents, state grants and pensions.

Their work involves helping people through some of the most vulnerable, stressful and difficult times of their lives. However, the rewards are great. Walking side by side with the patient and their family results in profound connections being made, in the sharing and celebrating of significant moments in their lives, and in having a hugely positive impact in adverse times.

Intrinsic to Helderberg Hospice care is the belief that, despite illness and loss, there is also a remarkable opportunity for self-awareness, change and growth for the patient and their family, and this remains a primary focus in the work of our social workers.

They also run a Day Hospice support group service once a week, where patients spend their time diverted from the clinical environment. The patients enjoy socialising and various therapy and craft activities.

The programme also offers each participant spiritual support and they are encouraged to discuss any psychosocial concerns they may have.

Social work services do not end when a patient passes away. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that the intense emotions associated with grief can be overwhelming and traumatic.

Our social workers, together with our trained volunteer bereavement supporters, provide bereavement services and support to family members, to assist them in coping with the death and in making the necessary adjustments required to continue living without their loved one.

. Dianne Waddington is a social worker at Helderberg Hospice. This article forms part of a series of articles on social work and the roles of social workers published inHelderberg Gazette.

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