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The working life of two social workers

Author: Susan O’Malley and Sharon Owen
14 July 2017

Susan O’Malley and Sharon Owen are social workers at Bolton Hospice. Broadly speaking they provide care and support to local people with life-limiting illnesses, but here they explain the many links and services they provide for patients get the best possible care.

We are end of life social workers and we tend to provide support and care in the last 12 months of life. Our referrals come predominantly from the hospice and community Macmillan nurses. We have colleagues in the community doing a similar role but where palliative needs are more complex or specialist, we tend to get involved.

We do not have a typical day. Even coming in with a plan can shift very fast in this role. As soon as emails and messages come through, the day can be altered immediately. We may have to set up emergency care, increasing care at home, source emergency beds in a rest home, and complete all related paperwork.

We visit patients at home to complete screenings for continuing healthcare, and review patients care packages to ensure it is working for them, guiding them through the different processes involved. We support people with emotional, psychological and wellbeing issues and we provide support to worried relatives to try to make the process clearer, acting as liaison and coordinating between nurses and agencies.

There can be so many different agencies involved in someone’s healthcare , so patients can easily get mixed up with the roles and it can be quite daunting. We can try to alleviate  this pressure and act as a single point of reference. As social workers we take a holistic approach and have a wide-angled lens on people’s healthcare, liaising with district nurses, Marie Curie and Macmillan nurses, and anyone else involved in providing healthcare to patients.

We also provide care and support to the carer, as they tend to need additional support in order to be able to continue providing effective care. We can provide basic  financial advice to carers such as the role of benefits, but this can be complicated so we will signpost to the Macmillan benefits adviser based at the hospice if required.  We also liaise with Carer’s Link, our local carers support network and we can refer carers to them if they need a key worker.

The earlier we can meet people the better informed we can all be. People’s situations change very quickly so we need to build up a relationship with them, even if it is very low key in the beginning, and act as a point of contact.

A lot of carers ring just to talk to us. If someone’s loved one is dying imminently, you become that face that people can talk to. We do get calls after people have died too and we continue to provide that support. We hope to leave the person ready for their next big life event, prepared to handle it better, and with a better knowledge of how things should work.

For more information visit Bolton Hospice

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