Hospice workers make connections, handle difficult questions

Provided by Lee County Health Department – Hospice

LEE COUNTY – Being a hospice social worker can be difficult and rewarding profession all at the same time. The Social Worker meets with families to discuss what is ahead of them on the end-of-life journey, they connect families to needed community resources, and they help make those final wishes a reality. For Lee County Health Department-Hospice, Margaret Cook, BSW, has been part of hospice families journey for the past 10 years.

When a referral to hospice is made, Margaret, and one of the hospice nurses, go to meet with the patient and the family to begin the discussion of what is to come. “That first meeting there are always a lot of questions because families want to know what and when things are going to happen,” states Cook. “And that is the most difficult part about the job because we don’t have those answers.” Instead she moves the focus to what she can do make their remaining days together memorable.

Margaret Cook, LCHD Social Worker, meets with a family member to review LCHD-Hospice services. Courtesy photo

The main goal for the Hospice Social Worker is to focus on those final wishes of the patient. For example, making sure the patient is where they want to be when they die. “We’ve had patients who are in a nursing facility, and they want to go home one final time,” says Cook. “So we will work the family, our staff and volunteers, and resources to make that happen.” Cook adds that depending when a patient is enrolled she will work on completing the “Five Wishes” with them. The Five Wishes can assist families to know exactly what sort of care their loved one wants, and help guide them through the tough decisions that have to be made.

“I always hope to get a patient in time to go over the Five Wishes,” adds Cook. “I have witnessed many families feeling like they don’t know what to do, and I have witnessed families with the Five Wishes be more at ease with the decisions they have made.”

The final wishes can also make memories happen. “We had a patient that loved Santa Claus, so we made that one final visit with Santa happen. Seeing the patient’s face light up is something I will always remember.”

Hospice is the preparation for the end-of-life for a loved one. Lee County Health Department-Hospice offers bereavement services for families after their loved one’s journey has ended. A few weeks after a patient passes Margaret will contact the family to see how they are coping, and to offer bereavement resources. LCHD-Hospice offers home visits with Margaret or a trained volunteer, newsletters, or connects them with an area support group. “We know what it is like to lose a loved one that is why it is so important to us to stay connected with the families,” adds Cook.

Throughout her Social Worker career Margaret has worked with all ages from toddlers and teens to now the dying, but she says they all have one thing in common, “they are all just trying to figure out the life they were given.”

Lee County Health Department – Hospice began offering hospice services in 1989; making them the first hospice in Southeast Iowa. They serve Lee, Des Moines, Henry, Van Buren counties in Iowa, and Hancock and Henderson counties in Illinois. For more information on the Lee County Health Department-Hospice services call (319)372-5225 or visit www.leecountyhd.org.

Being a hospice social worker can be difficult and rewarding profession all at the same time. The Social Worker meets with families to discuss what is ahead of them on the end-of-life journey, they connect families to needed community resources, and they help make those final wishes a reality. For Lee County Health Department-Hospice, Margaret Cook, BSW, has been part of hospice families journey for the past 10 years.

When a referral to hospice is made, Margaret, and one of the hospice nurses, go to meet with the patient and the family to begin the discussion of what is to come. “That first meeting there are always a lot of questions because families want to know what and when things are going to happen,” states Cook. “And that is the most difficult part about the job because we don’t have those answers.” Instead she moves the focus to what she can do make their remaining days together memorable.

The main goal for the Hospice Social Worker is to focus on those final wishes of the patient. For example, making sure the patient is where they want to be when they die. “We’ve had patients who are in a nursing facility, and they want to go home one final time,” says Cook. “So we will work the family, our staff and volunteers, and resources to make that happen.” Cook adds that depending when a patient is enrolled she will work on completing the “Five Wishes” with them. The Five Wishes can assist families to know exactly what sort of care their loved one wants, and help guide them through the tough decisions that have to be made.

“I always hope to get a patient in time to go over the Five Wishes,” adds Cook. “I have witnessed many families feeling like they don’t know what to do, and I have witnessed families with the Five Wishes be more at ease with the decisions they have made.”

The final wishes can also make memories happen. “We had a patient that loved Santa Claus, so we made that one final visit with Santa happen. Seeing the patient’s face light up is something I will always remember.”

Hospice is the preparation for the end-of-life for a loved one. Lee County Health Department-Hospice offers bereavement services for families after their loved one’s journey has ended. A few weeks after a patient passes Margaret will contact the family to see how they are coping, and to offer bereavement resources. LCHD-Hospice offers home visits with Margaret or a trained volunteer, newsletters, or connects them with an area support group. “We know what it is like to lose a loved one that is why it is so important to us to stay connected with the families,” adds Cook.

Throughout her Social Worker career Margaret has worked with all ages from toddlers and teens to now the dying, but she says they all have one thing in common, “they are all just trying to figure out the life they were given.”

Lee County Health Department – Hospice began offering hospice services in 1989; making them the first hospice in Southeast Iowa. They serve Lee, Des Moines, Henry, Van Buren counties in Iowa, and Hancock and Henderson counties in Illinois. For more information on the Lee County Health Department-Hospice services call (319)372-5225 or visit www.leecountyhd.org.

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