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How Social Workers Can Help Patients with Diabetes Get the Best Possible Care

How Social Workers Can Help Patients with Diabetes Get the Best Possible Care

  By: Editors at DiabetesIQ  |  Published: April 25, 2021   
Published: April 25, 2021   

How Social Workers Can Help Patients with Diabetes Get the Best Possible CareHow Social Workers Can Help Patients with Diabetes Get the Best Possible Care
© Valerii Honcharuk | Dreamstime.com

Social workers have a unique role that can facilitate early intervention services to minimize the burden and impact of type II diabetes on individuals of all ages. Diabetes is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Early intervention, ideally immediately after the diagnosis, is an important strategy to minimize the impact the condition has on quality of life.

What is the role of social workers in providing help to patients with diabetes?

When compared to health professionals, social workers have a distinct ability to link individuals to health and community services, thus facilitating intervention services in the care of people who live with type I or type II diabetes. In most cases, individuals experience chaos and confusion following the diagnosis of diabetes, no matter the age they are at the time of the diagnosis. Social workers can provide information and expertise that puts patients and their close family in touch with vital resources to help them cope.

Moreover, social workers are also often trained to conduct comprehensive assessments on individuals with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. They can listen to patients' concerns and provide psychological and emotional support. The services and support provided by social workers may enhance the quality of life of people who live with diabetes and can help them adjust to the impact the disease has on their life.

The importance of social workers in diabetes management has been mentioned in multiple studies. Many of them found that social workers facilitate meaningful educational, medical, and psychosocial interventions to improve the overall well-being of people who live with type I or type II diabetes. Some studies (Due-Christensen et al., 2017) have shown that diabetic patients who have poor outcomes are linked to a lack of receiving early intervention services. 

 

Social workers in hospital settings

Social workers often serve as liaisons between patients in interdisciplinary teams in various healthcare settings, including hospitals. Their role is to focus on identifying patients' psychological and psychosocial problems as well as their resource needs.

Many social workers are typically employed to work in a specific medical unit in hospitals, such as emergency, pediatrics, and oncology. Still, they also prove to be instrumental for the management of chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Social workers that are part of an interdisciplinary treatment team are often best positioned to address the psychological, environmental, and social issues of a person who has been diagnosed with diabetes.

Many individuals experience significant psychological distress, anxiety, fear and even shock following a diabetes diagnosis. Most of the time, these reactions result from a lack of understanding of the condition, fear of complications, and worries about the cost of medical care. Even though the initial distress of patients at the time of the diagnosis is normal, prolonged difficulties adjusting to the new condition may lead to mental health and long-term health outcomes. 

Studies have shown that patients with diabetes sometimes become disengaged in the self-management of their condition due to an inability to access resources and a lack of psychosocial support. This is where social workers can help. They can help patients find resources to help with their financial or medical needs. Sometimes, they may even be able to help with various concerns related to living with diabetes, including coping with workplace situations and problems within the family.

How can social workers help minor patients with diabetes?

If the patient who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes is a minor, social workers can help coordinate treatment with the school personnel. Sometimes, an individualized education program may be necessary in order for a child with diabetes to be successful. In some cases, the child may need special accommodations such as having diabetes supplies on hand at all times.

Social workers can offer moral support for children who are adjusting to their new life as diabetes patients. They can also help them understand that completing schoolwork or taking a test when their blood sugar is not in a healthy range might lead to disappointing results that are not fair and should be addressed with the school. Social work involvement with diabetes is sometimes limited, but social workers have the potential to make a remarkable difference in the life of people who have just been diagnosed with diabetes or have lived with the condition for a long period of time. 


Bottom line

From helping them to cope with the reality of living with a chronic illness and the impact it may have on their family and work life to helping children with diabetes thrive in their educational environment, social workers can make a world of difference in the life of people diagnosed with type I or type II diabetes.
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