Social Work in Cognitive Neurology
The Cognitive Neurology Social Work Team provides a broad range of integrated clinical interventions in neurology ambulatory settings. Patients served by this Team all have underlying neurologic disease or syndromes; many patients also have psychiatric illness and/or neuro-cognitive deficits. Outpatient mental health services are offered through the Cognitive Neurology Unit (CNU) for patients with diagnoses such as dementia, ALS, MS, Asperger's Syndrome, epilepsy, stroke and head injury. The interdisciplinary CNU Team includes neurologists, neuropsychiatrists, neuropsychologists, and social workers. CNU staff has organized educational packets for newly diagnosed dementia patients; these are are a valuable supplement to our clinical work. The Cognitive Neurology Social Work Team views family involvement as integral to the care of the neurologic patient. Often the family caregiver is "the hidden patient" and becomes the focus for social work intervention.
Direct Patient Care
A team of clinical social workers provides mental health services for patients with neurologic illness through the Cognitive Neurology Unit (CNU). These mental health services are billed to the patient's insurance carrier. Social work clinicians create patient care plans that adhere to established guidelines of managed care plans. At times the at-home caregiver may be the exclusive focus of attention (i.e. if the patient is severely cognitively impaired). Referrals are especially useful for patients who may be adjusting to a new diagnosis. Social workers facilitate periodic psychoeducational groups for patients with neurological illnesses. Other appropriate referrals include: patients contemplating surgical intervention; patients for whom medical compliance is uncertain; patients with vocational or school problems; family stress because of illness; patients with children for whom parenting is difficult; patients with anxiety, depression or behavioral problems; patients for whom there is concern about physical abuse or neglect; identification of community resources; long term planning for patient care. Locating resources for this group of patients, with overlapping neurologic illness and neurocognitive deficits, is challenging and labor intensive. Neuropsychiatric services are also available in the Cognitive Neurology Unit. Social workers make referrals to these staff members for consultation when necessary.