When one thinks of home health, nurses and therapists instantly come to mind. After all, a homebound patient requires healthcare services to eventually, hopefully, get to a point of independence. However, it would be disingenuous to state that a patient is only homebound due to their physical condition.
Even in the absence of wounds and muscle weakness, other problems can be lurking behind the scenes. The primarily elderly population that comprises a home health census often struggles silently. Depression, economic scarcity, and a dwindling or even non-existent support network are common. This is where the medical social worker comes in to play.
What are medical social workers?
Medical social workers are unique in that they do not have the lengthy care plans that a most clinicians require. Physical therapists, nurses, occupational therapists and even, comparatively, speech therapists all outnumber social workers in visits. It is not unusual of for a medical social worker to only have a single evaluation visit during a home health episode.
However, during this single visit, they are tasked with determining the financial situation of the patient. Do they need assistance with transportation, can they afford their rent, is insurance covering their treatment, are they getting enough to eat? The social worker also looks at the emotional needs of the patient and caregiver. Are they feeling depressed, stressed, overwhelmed, or angry?
But even more than simply assessing what could be an ever crumbling situation, the medical social worker takes steps to resolve them. Again, in what is typically a single visit, the social worker pulls together everything. Relevant community resources, assisting the patient with applying to necessary programs, and getting the patient on track towards a more fruitful life.
“Health and cheerfulness naturally beget each other.”Joseph Addison.
Why aren’t social workers on more home health cases?
Despite the numerous benefits of social workers in home health, it can be difficult for an agency to keep them on staff full time. A case load full of evaluations can be difficult to turn in to a 40 hour work week, even for a larger agency. A growing agency may feel as though disciplines such as medical social workers are not even an option.
This is why Lifespan is so proud to offer medical social workers. We truly believe that social workers deserve to earn enough to care for the patients in our community. We also truly believe that agency’s deserve to provide this service to their patients – whether they have a census of 10 or 1000.
Is your agency already utilizing medical social workers to improve health outcomes?