Social Workers Help Cancer Patients with Needs and Concerns
From sharing a listening ear to assisting with needed resources, the social workers in the CRMC Cancer Center are on hand to help meet the needs of cancer patients.
“We interview the patient and try to do a psychosocial assessment to find out a little bit more about them,” said Jason Brown, an oncology social worker at the Cancer Center.
Then, based on the patient’s needs, the social workers try to put them in touch with
resources that can help them.
“We screen them for things like appetite issues and might send them to our dietitian,” said Brown. “If they’re having pain issues but aren’t scheduled to see anyone, we can get them a faster appointment with their doctor.”
Social workers can also connect patients with resources outside the hospital that might be of benefit.
“We can put people in touch with a lot of other local services, like a free wig program for
chemotherapy patients, the Go Pink program at the YMCA for breast cancer patients, and more,” said Brown.
They help the patient fill out any needed paperwork, such as advance directives, power
of attorney, family medical leave requests for time off work, Social Security disability applications and more.
In addition, social services offers one-on-one counseling to help patients and family members deal with the emotional aspects of their illness, as well as providing home health referrals, gas cards and financial assistance.
One of the main resources the social workers call on for financial help is the Cookeville Regional Charitable Foundation’s Cancer Care Fund. While the fund does not cover
medical bills, it can sometimes help with the necessities of life, like rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and groceries.
“People get stressed out over finances, and that’s a big thing,” said Brown. “If they experience an emergency like that, they start thinking, ‘Oh, no, I can’t make my house payment. I’m going to have to skip my treatment and go back to work instead.’ So the goal of financial assistance is to make sure they’re able to get here and get the treatments they need.”
Javier Cortez (name changed to protect patient’s identity) is one of the many patients
the fund has helped. A throat cancer patient, Cortez had to take time off from his job because of the side effects of his chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“They helped us with basically everything — the light bill, the water bill, the telephone bill and more,” said Cortez.
Social services also helped Cortez sign up for Social Security disability and TennCare.
“I didn’t have TennCare before, but they helped me get all of the paperwork filled out,” said Cortez. “That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about another huge medical bill, and it
relieved the expense of the medications.”
Now that Cortez has completed his treatments and is back at work, he’s very grateful for all that Brown and the Social Services Department did to help him and his family through the crisis.
“It’s not just like one day you’re sick and then the next day you’re good,” said Cortez. “This is one of those things where it goes on for a while, and not being able to work during that time really does harm to your family. They were able to help me pay for necessities so we could stay on our feet.”