How an Oncology Social Worker Can Help You

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What resources are available for cancer patients? When you are diagnosed with cancer, you feel like youâ??ve lost control of your world. Oncology social workers are available to help. Harold Dean is an oncology social worker and the Director of Social Services at UAMS Myeloma Institute. Listen as Harold explains the role of a social worker and gives examples of the types of services to which social workers can connect you.

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Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Andrew Schorr:

I want to introduce a new expert. And that’s Harold that I mentioned earlier. So, Harold, could you just explain your history here and your role for helping people dealing with myeloma and their families? 

Harold Dean:     

Sure. I’ve been an oncology social worker for 23 years now. And the role of the social worker really, as I think probably most of you know, anytime anyone is diagnosed with myeloma or diagnosed with any type of cancer, there is, oftentimes, a feeling of really not being in control 

And you can feel very overwhelmed by all of the things that come with that diagnosis and facing treatment. And so the role of the social worker is to really try to help patients re-establish some of that control, to help them kind of feel in control again. And that can be through several ways. First of all, it can be through making them aware of where you can find appropriate information and kind of putting you in the direction of those services. Also, social workers, many times, can be the advocate for the patient with the healthcare team. Sometimes, patients will tell social workers things that they didn’t really tell their doctor, or they didn’t tell their nurse.

And those can, many times, be critical things that the team needs to know or to take into consideration when establishing treatment or looking at treatment strategies. In addition to that, social workers, oftentimes, help with just very practical matters as well. Cancer, certainly myeloma, there can be financial implications. And we look at what are possible resources to try to help you what that. Sometimes, things may be as practical as I’m going to have to stay in town for treatment. What are my options for staying in town? What are my options for transportation to and from treatment?

Sometimes, depending upon a person’s needs, they may have needs for just daily living where they need help with that where maybe they don’t have the support of family or friends.

And what are the options for that? So social work is really trying to kind of look at the person in that situation. And when appropriate, to try to hook them up with the appropriate services. And also to, as I said, be that voice for the patient with the healthcare team.

Andrew Schorr:                  

Harold, let me ask you. We have many people who come with someone else. But there are some people who live alone.

Harold Dean:     

Right.

Andrew Schorr:                  

So can you help people who live alone who don’t have family, who don’t have a spouse, maybe who don’t have an adult child to help them to get resources?

And are there resources to help them?

Harold Dean:     

Well, a lot of that is going to really depend upon the specific situation. But, yes, that’s one of the things that social work is looking at is what is that person in their particular situation and trying to look at those factors. Sometimes, there are resources out there for caregiving, for people to come in to the home. Sometimes, those may be resources that may be available through government programs. Sometimes, those may be resources where the patient would assume part of the cost of that.

And one of the things, also, that we look at, I think, that social work tries to encourage people to do is also look at those people that can really be part of your team. And when I say team, I don’t mean your healthcare team.

But I mean look at people that can be part of your team away from the treatment facility. Are there neighbors? Are there people at your church or your synagogue or through other organizations? Or are there support groups in your area where that being with those people can really provide you with the emotional support and also maybe put you in touch with local resources for your particular area. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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Page last updated on September 27, 2016