The Role of the Social Worker
The social worker is part of a multidisciplinary team, helping patients and their families cope with the psychosocial ramifications of movement disorders.
The work is based on the premise that these diseases impact the patients and the family system. Reducing patient and family stress inherent in chronic progressive degenerative diseases requires maximizing the 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 caregiver 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.
Contributed by Jennie Posen MSW, Rena Frohner MSW, Amy Chesire LCSW-R, MSG, Deborah Thorne, LCSW