Social workers can serve as role models for clients

It’s critical for social workers to take the time and make sure their advance directives are in order, says California licensed clinical social worker Joni Diamond.

“Life is so fragile. We never know what tomorrow brings,” she said.

Social workers are also well positioned to help clients discuss their health care choices and goals, Diamond said. “We are able to be a role model for them and help them discuss these critical and sensitive decisions.”

NASW is promoting the observance of National Healthcare Decisions Day, or NHDD, taking place April 16. NASW joins hundreds of organizations, health care providers and other key stakeholders promoting awareness, completion and discussion of advance care directives.

“It’s imperative to know what your wishes are for yourself — such as the things you want and don’t want done medically,” Diamond said. Such wishes can be documented in a living will, which constitutes one part of an advance directive.

As a longtime private practitioner, Diamond said she has spoken with clients about the importance of making advance care directives.

The NHDD website, features tools and resources to get involved in the campaign as well as advance care directive information, forms and suggestions for initiating advance care planning discussions with loved ones.

NASW will promote NHDD through its chapters, MemberLink, SectionLink, blogs, and Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Diamond, who is co-chairwoman of the NASW California Chapter statewide American Red Cross Council, also said that, as part of an advance directive, it is a good idea to have a health care agent who can carry out health care wishes if one is unable to do so.

“This person’s contact information should be on your advance directives and he or she should have a copy of it along with your doctors and local hospital,” Diamond suggested. “Additionally, keep a copy with you, as tragedies/disasters do not have a time clock or appointment.”

Such information could also be saved on a flash drive, she said.

Nathan Kottkamp, founder and chairman of the NHDD initiative, said social workers are ideally suited to help promote NHDD because they engage with people in a variety of circumstances.

“Social workers can encourage all adult clients to engage in advance care planning, and they can ‘lead by example’ and do so with their own families,” Kottkamp said.

“As always, NHDD serves as a great opportunity to connect with other professionals to establish or nourish relationships,” Kottkamp said. “NHDD is not restricted to health care settings — it is a perfect opportunity to raise the topic of advance care planning in various social groups, book clubs, houses of worship, etc.”

A 2013 NASW Practice Perspective, Reexamining Advance Care Planning is availble on this website.

NHDD Facts

  • In its first four years, 2008-2011, National Healthcare Decisions Day achieved the following:
  • Both houses of Congress as well as several states and local jurisdictions formally recognized NHDD.
  • More than 110 national organizations participated in the NHDD awareness campaign, as did more than 1,200 state and local organizations.
  • The U.S. Army and U.S. Navy had bases participating worldwide.
  • More than 2.2 million facility/organization staff members received advance directive training.
  • More than 1 million members of the general public participated in NHDD events.
  • More than 17,500 advance directives were completed on NHDD alone.
  • There was a variety of coverage in newspapers and on TV, radio and the Internet.
  • More than 2 million people were exposed to NHDD via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

— Source: National Healthcare Decisions Day