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Social Work in Hospice Care is Flexible and Valuable

Paradigm Health licensed social worker Anna Burden says her career path was most likely carved out for her when she was very young. When most families were out on vacation or attending events — Barden’s family was volunteering and caring for others. 

“Both of my parents were social workers and worked in social services,” says Burden. “I always knew that I wanted to help folks, but I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to do that. Becoming a social worker myself has been the best way to do that.” 

Burden’s bachelor’s degree in a related field provided the framework for her to build on for work and she ultimately attained a master’s degree and began working in mental health therapy in the school systems. 

“When the pandemic hit, I went home to help my parents,” Burden shares. “I started working in hospice care then. I don’t think I knew that when I started my career journey that I would end up working in hospice helping patients, families and caregivers, but I can’t imagine doing anything else now.” 

Why a Social Worker In Hospice Care? 

Many patients and families initially don’t feel the need for a social worker’s help in their hospice care. Often, that need changes as the hospice journey unfolds.  

“I always think it is good to have a social worker in your life,” smiles Burden. “My goal is to be helpful to you no matter what that looks like. Whether that is making sense of mail, catching up on day-to-day stuff or facilitating a connection to resources – there really isn’t a playbook for it.” 

The Paradigm Health social work team can use their experience and knowledge to share with patients and families what end-of-life coping, education and support might look like, and they can act as an extra set for the community-based hospice caregiving team.  

“I think it is hard to describe exactly what a social worker does other than hope that they can be a solution seeker no matter the question,” Burden says. “I often answer ‘there really isn’t much I can’t or won’t do to help.’” 

An Invaluable Lens 

There are many aspects to hospice care away from medications and Burden shares that she thinks a social worker provides a unique lens to speak to the social aspects of hospice relating to social isolation, assistance with personal business, and making sure folks have their legacy work done. 

“Patients, families and caregivers don’t know how hospice care will affect each of them until the journey begins,” says Burden. “You can’t know until you are living it in real time and take a step back to understand what questions you may have and who from the hospice care team can help. With an entire team of Paradigm Health hospice caregivers, including social workers, it feels less overwhelming for those on a hospice journey, and we can provide support no matter what the need is.”