Get to know medical social worker Elizabeth Hollingsworth, MSW LSW:
“The opportunity to connect with Paradigm Health’s patients and being able to provide comfort and support to them and their families during such a difficult time has been so rewarding and uplifting,” shares Hollingsworth.
Share your professional background and how long you have been with Paradigm Health:
I have been with Paradigm Health since June of 2018 and am the newest social worker on staff. Prior to working at Paradigm Health, I worked as a case manager with CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions for five years, which was my first job after graduating with my bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2013. I also have internship experience in medical social work, including my bachelor’s degree internship with Southern Care Hospice and my master’s degree internship with Simon Cancer Center at IU Health University Hospital. I graduated from IUPUI with my master’s degree in Social Work in August 2017 and earned my license in social work (LSW) in January 2018.
What do you think Paradigm Health offers patients and their caregivers from your job’s perspective that other companies may not?
Coming from a much larger company, I was initially attracted to Paradigm Health’s unique culture as a smaller but growing local, family-owned company. Jeff, the owner of the company, is very present and connected with his employees and makes everyone who works for him feel appreciated and important. He is always quick to respond to employee concerns and implement any necessary changes. Paradigm Health feels like a family, and every member of the team is treated with equal value. Because of this supportive culture, the employees are genuinely happy to work for Paradigm Health and are dedicated and passionate about the work that they do, which brings outstanding customer service to our patients. Paradigm Health genuinely cares about their patients and consistently goes above and beyond to make sure they and their families are receiving the best possible care.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working in hospice has been a goal of mine for many years, so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so with a great company like Paradigm Health. Oftentimes, when people ask what I do, their first reaction is, “I couldn’t do that, that would be so depressing.” But I have found that it is quite the opposite. The opportunity to connect with our patients and being able to provide comfort and support to them and their families during such a difficult time has been so rewarding and uplifting. I also have extremely supportive coworkers and love the relationships I have been able to build through this company.
What types of assistance can you offer patients and their caregivers?
My primary role as the social worker is to connect our patients and families with beneficial resources. There can be a lot of questions surrounding end of life, since it is often a new experience for many of our families who are unsure of what to expect. I am in a position to provide end-of-life education, such as the physical signs of the dying process and education about the goals of hospice services. I can also assist with advance directives and funeral planning, insurance or financial concerns, connection to grief support or bereavement resources, or connections to other resources in the community which may be beneficial for additional support. On the home-health side, my role is more short-term and limited to one or two visits to provide necessary resources to patients. On the hospice side, support is more ongoing to provide assistance to patients and families through end of life. If none of the above needs are present, my role is more geared toward providing emotional support for patients and families and notifying the hospice team of any identified needs or concerns.
Paradigm Health focuses on a holistic and team approach. How does your social service work fit into that vision?
At Paradigm Health we have bi-weekly IDG (interdisciplinary group) meetings where all members of the team meet together with our hospice medical director to provide individual updates on each patient. Each member of the team is welcomed during this time to contribute and share their perspective on the patient’s needs and well-being. As the social worker, my role is to ensure that each of my patients’ psychosocial needs are met, which includes any needs that might not be met by our other disciplines. I can often give perspective on patient needs or concerns which may not have otherwise been identified. I appreciate that Paradigm takes this holistic approach to patient care and values the contribution of each discipline to the patients’ overall well-being.
What advice from a social services standpoint can you offer to patients and caregivers that might help them know next steps in their own journey and help to relieve stress for them?
From experience with my patients and families, my best advice would be for families to start having end-of-life conversations early, even before they are necessary. These conversations can include funeral planning, advance directives, preferences for care, etc. It can be an uncomfortable topic that many families wish to avoid but having these discussions early on will relieve a great deal of stress and confusion for the family when it comes time for important end of life decisions to be made, since the patient will already have made their wishes known.
I would also advise families that hospice should not be feared. Transitioning a loved one to hospice services does not mean “giving up,” as it is so often viewed. Instead, under hospice care, focus of care shifts from curative care to comfort care, and to providing the best possible quality of life for the patient. For the majority of our patients and families, hospice is a positive and uplifting experience. Our team is present to support not only the patient but the entire family during the difficult process of coping with the passing of a loved one.
What are the basic steps when evaluating a patient for social services?
The first step in every assessment is to attempt to build rapport with a patient or family, especially if I am going to be working with them for an extended period of time. I often find that, especially in the beginning, families are overwhelmed and may not know what questions to ask. Many do not understand my role as the social worker and what services I can offer. I always explain my role and the purpose of my visit and start by conversing with them about their background. I ask them about their home, family history and supports, occupational history, psychosocial history, any hobbies/interests, and so on. I often ask if there are any financial needs or concerns, and (for hospice patients) if funeral plans are in place. Some patients are quicker to identify needs than others. In the case that no needs are immediately identified, I let them know that I will be checking in with them periodically to provide support and assess for any needs at that arise.