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We sought to determine the frequency with which hospice and palliative social workers encounter patients, family caregivers, and other clients at risk of suicide, and to discover the extent to which hospice and palliative social workers feel prepared to address issues related to suicide in their professional practice.
We conducted a cross-sectional survey of hospice and palliative social workers, recruiting a convenience sample of volunteer respondents through advertisements at professional conferences and listservs, and via social media accounts associated with national organizations, state hospice and palliative care associations, and individual healthcare professionals.
Most respondents reported having worked with patients, family caregivers, or other clients who had exhibited warning signs of suicide during the previous year. Fewer respondents indicated that they had worked with patients and family members who had attempted or died by suicide. While the majority of respondents believed they possessed sufficient knowledge and skills to intervene effectively with individuals at risk of suicide, they indicated that additional education on this topic would be valuable for their professional practice.
Significance of results:
These study results suggest that suicide-related competencies are important in the practice of hospice and palliative social work. Future education and training efforts should include skill development in addition to knowledge building.
Although hospice agencies are required to provide informal caregivers (family or friends of the patient) with formal bereavement support when their loved one passes, most bereavement interventions lack standardization and remain untested. We employed the Dual Processing Model of Bereavement as a theoretical framework for assessing the potential of a secret Facebook group for bereaved hospice caregivers.
A mixed-methods approach was utilized to analyze online communication (posts and comments) in the secret Facebook group, and self-reported outcome measures on depression and anxiety were compared pre- and post-intervention.
Sixteen caregivers participated in the secret Facebook group over a period of nine months. The majority of online talk was oriented to restoration, revealing abrupt and anticipated triggers that evoked feelings of loss. Caregivers also shared loss orientation through storytelling, sharing and giving advice, and encouraging others to manage the challenges of coping. Caregiver anxiety and depression were lower after the intervention.
Significance of Results:
This pilot study provides insight into the use of a secret Facebook group to facilitate bereavement support to caregivers. Findings highlight the promise of Facebook for hospice bereavement support. Providers and researchers are encouraged to explore the positive outcomes associated with bereavement support.
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