Meet Lucy Sansom, a Palliative Care Social Worker at Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice. Lucy, who has been a social worker for over 25 years, provides social care support to patients, families and carers at the hospice and in the community. Here, she talks us through a day in her life.
My alarm goes off at 6.00am and the first thing I do is get up and take Sammy, my 13 year-old Whippet cross, out for a walk. I then do all the mundane jobs like unloading the dishwasher and making sandwiches, before giving my daughter a lift to work and driving to the hospice.
I will arrive for 9.00am and go to a handover meeting with the multidisciplinary team, which is where I pick up any new referrals. My work varies on a daily basis but I will usually then go and see patients on the ward or visit patients at their homes in the local community.
What does a Palliative Care Social Worker do?
My role is diverse, but I usually help patients and their families with anything that isn’t medical.
A lot of my work is around finances, which can be a big concern when somebody has a terminal illness. I can help people get the benefits they are eligible for, signpost them to organisations that can help and identify any sources of charitable support.
If needed, I will maintain contact with families for a period of time after their relative has passed away to make sure they can get back on an even keel and access the support available to them. If there are complex family dynamics, especially when children will be affected, I can provide additional support.
“Advocacy is a big part of my role”
I also help with housing and employment related issues. For example, if someone is unable to maintain their rental agreement or a carer has to give up work. Advocacy is a big part of my role too, helping people to make informed decisions in their best interests.
“I was recently involved in a DWP working group to review the special rules around terminal illness”
In between appointments I’ll do paperwork, following up with patients or filling out applications for referrals to social services or NHS continuing healthcare. I’m also working on launching a new carers drop-in group at the hospice where they can access support and information. I was recently involved in a DWP working group to review the special rules around terminal illness.
There are so many good things about my role and I’m lucky that I work with brilliant colleagues. It can be hard working with people who are at the end of their lives or terminally ill, but it’s also a real privilege.
“The best thing about my job is the time you spend with people, supporting them at the most difficult time of their lives”
The best thing about my job is the time you spend with people, supporting them at the most difficult time of their lives. It’s often the little things that mean the most and they are so grateful just to have somebody saying “don’t worry we’ll get through this together”. It’s a unique experience and you’re doing a little something to make it better and easier for them.
When I’ve finished my working day I’ll drive home and spend time with my two grown-up kids before making dinner and maybe watching something on TV.
Outside of work, I enjoy yoga classes and my main hobby is art. I love visiting art exhibitions and can often be found with a group of like-minded friends drawing, painting or creating something!