When seeking a career in social work, palliative care is not a strand that will spring to most professionals’ minds, but it is an inevitable, highly necessary role that demands special attributes of any social worker who feels capable of fulfilling such duties.
What is Palliative care?
The overriding aim of palliative care is to improve the quality of life for a person who knows they are dying and to give support to family members.
The social working aspect is to provide additional support and assistance for the patient and their family.
While many of us think of death related to the elderly, it is important to understand that palliative care is appropriate for any age group and during any stage of serious illness.
A social workers role in palliative care
It is estimated that over 600,000 people die each year in the UK (and this number is on the increase). At current rates this means that around 9 out of every 1,000 of our population dies on an annual basis.
While a percentage of people will die suddenly, for example due to accidents, there is also a large percentage who are aware that they have a terminal illness.
The role palliative care social workers carry out include includes support from a:
Point of view. This is focused on the patient and family members.
Palliative social workers will have many ‘conditions’ to deal with:
A palliative social worker will have do deal with such things as severe patient hardships which include:
- Intense physical pain and/or discomfort
- Financial strain
- Social isolation
- Family conflict
End of life planning is essential
Palliative care social work is very much dealing with the ‘here and now’ situation and condition of a client.
Ensuring, wherever possible that the mental, emotional, familial and monetary stressors are discussed and placed in perspective.
This all leads to a structured end-of-life planning process that needs putting in place. By achieving this, a palliative social worker is helping to ease the ultimate worries and concerns of an individual.
Where would you work?
Your work environment will be varied. Examples being:
- Visiting clients in a hospital during times they are undergoing serious treatment and subsequent recuperation periods
- In their own or family home
- For those who decide on the option of a hospice, you will be a regular visitor to such an establishment
Pointless? Most certainly NOT!
It really does take extremely special qualities to become a palliative social care worker. The benefits you are giving those in most need cannot and never should be underestimated.
Your role, responsibilities and actions are greatly contributing to the end-of-life scenarios that so many are facing.
To say that such a role is challenging is not sufficient. The fact is that you are helping individuals through what has to be the most difficult and stressful time of their lives.
It is a career that is not suitable for many, but for those who enter this field of social work it is one to be extremely proud of. The self-recognition must be seen in terms of the improvements you help provide for those in the very greatest of need.
There will be times of extreme sadness and angst, however the rewards include cementing deep connections with wonderful individuals, learning and celebrating their life stories and providing a very positive impact to those directly affected and their families.