Every year in March, the National Association of Social Workers takes time to honor its members across the country with the observance of National Social Work Month. At HSS, social work leaders provide outstanding support and education for patients, families and communities impacted by complex orthopedic conditions and rheumatologic illness. Here are some coping tips provided by the Department of Social Work Programs at HSS:
1. Learn more about your illness/condition.Educate yourself about your illness; ask questions and seek out resources to help you understand your illness and address your concerns. Include family in this process; the more they know, the more they will understand how your condition affects you and what they can do to help.
2. Communicate well with your healthcare provider. Communicating your concerns during a medical visit can pose challenges, especially when there are cultural and language differences. Social workers can help you identify ways to enhance your communication with your doctor, helping you get the most from your care. For example, ask your doctor, “What is my main problem, what do I need to do, and why is this important for me to do?”
3. Manage your pain. Pain, both acute and chronic, can cause anxiety and depression but these feelings can also worsen pain, creating a vicious cycle. Social workers can help you understand the relationship between pain and emotions, identify skills to manage your pain and assist you in finding support and resources.
4. Take care of your emotional health, too. Many studies suggest that living with arthritis or other chronic conditions can put you at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. Pay attention to your emotions. Social workers can provide counseling, help you find additional emotional support and connect you with other healthcare professionals.
5. Remember that illness affects the whole family. Coping with the daily and long-term challenges of living with arthritis and orthopedic conditions creates special stress, not only for you, but for the entire family. Partners and children may need extra emotional support of their own. Support groups or counseling can be helpful resources.
Social work services are available to HSS patients to assess patient/family needs related to the impact and understanding of illness and treatment, provide emotional support, and assist with accessing mental health services, support groups, homecare and other community resources.