Each March during National Social Work Month, I get to consider: What does it mean to be a social work counselor at Gilchrist hospice?
I know we are trained to understand the psychological and social factors which underlie people’s thoughts, feeling and behaviors. But maybe the best way to understand our role is to hear from our social work counselors about their experiences with families.
“I recently worked with a woman whose two daughters loved her, took care of her and wanted nothing but for their mother to feel comfortable and at peace with the end of her life. The patient, in turn, wanted nothing but peace for her daughters in accepting her death, and hope for their future. Though all the women had the same wishes, they avoided discussing these wishes with each other.
Instead, they all separately told me their wishes. They each were afraid to discuss the death of their loved one in front of the other, for fear they would cause the others depression. I helped the three of them come together and openly discuss the fact that their mom was dying and what she wanted for her children following her death. They were all so relieved and were able to spend their remaining time reminiscing, talking about the future and saying what they meant to each other.” ─Maureen Hulse, LCSW-C Harford Home Care team
“Recently I met a woman who was very fearful of dying, stating that she wanted CPR, and would prefer to return to the hospital and receive more treatments for her cancer, though at the time there were no more available treatments. Her grown children did not agree on her care, with some wanting her to work toward re-gaining strength and others wanting her to be comfortable.
Within just days of her admission to home care, 911 was called. As the team social worker, I met the patient and family at the emergency room. With much supportive and empathetic listening, I helped each family member understand the others’ thoughts and feelings as well as their mother’s medical situation. The family was then able to decide together to have their mother moved to Gilchrist Center Howard County. The patient and the family were at peace when she died there the next day.” ─Kimberly Flash LCSW, Howard Home Care team.
These are just two examples of the work Gilchrist social workers do every day. We strive to bring every member of the family together, suspending our own views and attempting to see the world through their eyes. We learn how they have coped with past difficult situations and used family and community support. Knowing their goals and concerns, we embark on their path with them, restoring hope for a peaceful end of life with quality and dignity, and renewing family confidence in their ability to face emotional stress and solve problems.