JOLIET – Battling a serious illness or injury is challenging for any family.
That’s why hospital social workers help connect families with resources in the community.
Christi Landaiche, a licensed clinical social worker at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, said social workers collaborate with the nurse case manager to assess what needs patients might have and then find resources to meet them.
It isn’t always easy.
“I think, especially after the recession, we saw a lot of the resources available in the past become no longer available because of the lack of funding or agencies shutting down,” Landaiche said.
Still, help is there. One only has to know where to look. And social workers do.
Check health insurance policy
For instance, some affordable care plans have non-emergency medical transportation coverage, Landaiche said. This could include transportation to the doctor’s office for appointments and to the pharmacy for picking up medications.
“People are always delighted to find that as a resource,” Landaiche said.
The Joliet area has transportation options, too.
“PACE, Dial-A-Ride are low-cost ways for people to get to their visits,” Landaiche said.
Help from doctors and pharmaceutical companies
Medication cost too high? Insurance won’t pay for it?
Landaiche said the first step is to talk with the doctor who prescribed it. Many times, a less expensive medicine – or one covered by insurance – can be substituted, she said.
And if not?
“If all else fails, pharmaceutical companies do have good patients assistant programs,” Landaiche said.
If a person qualifies, he or she might get his medication free or at a reduced rate, she said.
Dealing with it
Sometimes all a patient or family member needs is a listening ear, so social workers need to be good listeners, Landaiche said.
This goes beyond venting.
Social workers can explain anything unfamiliar from the health care team and help patients and families formulate good questions to ask in return, she said.
When more is needed, social workers also can provide information on community agencies that provide counseling on a sliding fee.
And don’t forget support groups.
“The internet makes it easy to link to online support groups,” Landaiche said. “And there are support groups where people can go in person.”
Something to keep in mind: a person might feel the most vulnerable after treatment ends, Landaiche said.
Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center has a palliative care program, which helps chronically ill patients cope with their symptoms and match treatment plans with goals.
Once the patient is discharged, other community agencies pick up where the hospital left off, Landaiche said.
Managing the home environment also is important, she said. This includes ensuring that patients have any equipment they might need to manage their daily lives, such as walkers and home oxygen.
Sometimes a person goes to rehabilitation first and then home.
“Our first priority is to make sure they’re going to the next level of care that’s safest for them,” Landaiche said. “We also want to look beyond that next step, to see what they’re going to need down the road.”