The Role of the Social Worker

Contributed by Jennie Posen MSW, Rena Frohner MSW, Amy Chesire LCSW-R, MSG, Deborah Thorne, LCSW

The social worker has a central role to play as part of a multi-disciplinary team, helping patients and their families cope with the psycho-social ramifications of movement disorders.

The work is based on the premise that these diseases impact not just on the patients but on the family system. Reducing patient and family stress inherent in chronic progressive degenerative diseases, therefore, requires maximizing patient and family's strengths, coping resources and capabilities.

During clinic visits or other contacts, the social worker evaluates patient and family functioning, including: patient and family members' emotional state, their perception of the specific disease and incurred losses, the existence and use of social support, caregiver issues and family coping needs at different stages of the disease and their stage in the life cycle.

Listening to patients and families forms the basis of the social worker’s counseling strategy at many critical transitions: the diagnostic moment, when genetic status is disclosed, when conflicts based on frontal lobe dysfunction occur, when disease progression signals loss of roles and independence, when care-giver burdens increase, or when a change in living arrangements is necessary.

The social worker:

  • Helps the patient and family reorganize and adjust to new needs
  • Provides information about disease progression and coping skills
  • Facilitates access to community resources, health insurance programs, planning for home care or community based housing options
  • Counsels patients and their family members individually, as couples and as families
  • Provides short term crisis intervention and long term supportive counseling
  • Conducts a range of group work experiences for patients, caregivers and other family members. Group work may be based on educational models that provide information and support, dynamic, or use cognitive behavioral techniques. They may be short term, “one-off” sessions, or long term support groups

    1. Jennie Posen, Orna Moore, Dafna Sadeh-Tassa, Karni Ginzburgh, Margalit Drory, Nir Giladi (2001)Young women with PD. A group work experience. Social work in Health Care. Vol 32, Issue 1, 77-91

    2. Rolland, J.S 1994. Families, Illness and Disabilities. An Integrative Model. Basic Books