The National Association of Social Workers designated March as Social Work Month. This year’s theme – “Leaders, Advocates, Champions” – is an apt description of Garrett Regional Medical Center’s Social Work staff, who want to use the month to advocate for the use of Advance Directives by patients and their family members, according to Kendra Thayer, Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services at the regional hospital.
“Our social workers are part of the hospital’s Patient Care Management Team, and they work to provide support to patients and family members regarding the emotional, social and financial aspects of a health diagnosis while also supporting the patient in finding the health care they need,” Ms. Thayer says. “Hospital social workers are on the frontlines of helping patients and family members understand their options in what can be a very stressful situation. That’s where advance directives can play an important role.”
Jessica Salinas, MSW, LGSW, leader of Patient Care Management at GRMC, agrees. One of the most challenging and beneficial services they provide is explaining to patients the options available through advance directives.
“We work to empower our patients and their families to be better advocates and champions of their health and their health care options,” Ms. Salinas notes. “Advance directives are one of the most empowering tools for patients and their loved ones, because it’s documentation that legally expresses a patient’s desire about their future health care decisions.”
Advance directives state a patient’s decision about medical treatment should they become unable to voice their wishes, or it can also designate an individual to make decisions on their behalf. These documents can be included as part of a patient’s permanent medical file. Patients can update these documents as needed.
“Preparing an advance directive requires no legal consultation, which is often a common misconception about this process. There is no cost involved when preparing an advance directive and the process only requires two witnesses to be present when signing the documents,” Salinas adds.
Maryland state law recognizes two types of advance directives: A Living Will Declaration and An Appointment of Health Care Agent. GRMC patients who are residents of Pennsylvania or West Virginia can also use these forms for their care at the hospital or can bring their forms with them to be part of their medical chart.
The Maryland Advance Directives Guide Book and the Maryland Medical Orders Form can be downloaded on GRMC’s website at https://www.grmc-wvumedicine.org/advancedirectives or patients may call the Patient Care Management team at GRMC at (301) 533-4312 to obtain the forms. Individuals may also contact their physician offices for more information.