Social workers have expertise in working with complexity, assessing social determinants of health and providing psychosocial interventions. The social worker role in working with an older adult receiving palliative care at the end of life is to help the individual and their families by advocating for resources that they may need, ensuring that their quality of life and views and preferences of the patient are central to decision-making and, providing strategies to address other needs that may arise whether social, practical, financial, legal, emotional or spiritual.
The social worker liaises within the interprofessional care team to promote best outcomes. Social workers view the person holistically and hence acknowledge that the identity of the person and their behaviours and wishes, needs and preferences cannot be seen in isolation.
In helping people with palliative care needs, a social worker is guided by the wishes and preferences of the person as well as their context. Where indicated, a social worker might complete a full psychosocial assessment which would inform subsequent care plans.
- This may include the use of commonly used tools to measure needs assessment, wellbeing and bereavement risk.
- Social workers focus on the co-creation of realistic goals and expectations in the face of decline and impeding death within the context of a therapeutic relationship.
Further services social workers might also provide
- Counselling that supports cultural, emotional and psychological needs for the individual at end of life,
- Help for friends, families and partners so that they can be involved in care and decision-making, as appropriate,
- Linking in the person, family or carers with financial and legal support services to assist with management of financial or legal issues, if needed and any other community resources e.g. support groups,
- Help the person to identify others who are important to them and highlight and explore relationship issues.
- Empower the person and those close to them to work towards completion of any unfinished business.
- May advocate for the person’s wishes to the palliative care or healthcare team liaises within the care team to promote best outcomes.
- Provide grief counselling of pre-bereaved or bereaved family members including those experiencing complex bereavement.
- Assist with accommodation or placement such as residential aged care, respite care and supported accommodation.
- Assist with Advance Care Planning.