Social work diary: ‘I buy milk and bread for a client leaving hospital’

Welcoming a client home from hospital and reassuring relatives takes up much of the week for this adults' social worker

Photo: Fotolia/highwaystarz


A client is returning home after months in hospital. I call the care agency to check what time their care worker will arrive. I drive to her flat to greet her when she gets out of the ambulance. On the way, I stop off to buy milk and bread. She is delighted to be at home and neighbours pop in to welcome her back while I make her a cup of tea. I test her pendant alarm, and check that the key safe works.

This takes up most of my morning. Later I join a colleague to carry out a needs assessment for an elderly man and his wife. They speak little English and their daughter acts as an interpreter. I agree to submit some paperwork to panel for funding.


I spend the morning at a carers’ group talking about capacity. It’s informal and the conversation flows over tea and biscuits. It’s a humbling experience because we hear from one man who lovingly describes how he met his wife 50 years ago and how she worked as a nurse. Now she needs care for almost everything and can’t be left by herself.

Back at the office, I finish a document to submit to the funding panel and have a quick catch-up with my manager about an ongoing safeguarding case before leaving for the day.


I meet the wife of a man with advanced dementia. She is his carer, is obviously struggling and is frequently on the verge of tears during our conversation. There is no respite or help for her at home but she feels duty bound to carry on until she can no longer do so. The situation already sounds desperate; she has no time to herself and her husband tries to escape from the house virtually all the time. I ask her how she will know when she’s reached the end of her tether and she admits she’s not sure. We discuss a few options and I suggest that I visit again next week to complete a carer’s assessment.

I receive a call from the anxious daughter of a client who is in hospital. She is worried ward staff don’t like him and that he’s not receiving the care he needs. I offer to contact the ward to discuss this with the ward manager. She is relieved, but keen not to be perceived as complaining.


The day starts with a long conversation with the daughter of an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease. She is worried: she says her mother has deteriorated to the point of needing permanent residential care. Her mother lives on her own, in supported accommodation, but has fused the lights for the second time in as many weeks. I agree to visit next week.

I attend the weekly allocation meeting and get a new case. I read through the notes, speak to the GP who has made the referral, and make contact with the client’s son to arrange a visit for the next week. The rest of the day is spent writing up notes.


I have supervision with one of the senior social workers. We discuss all of my cases and spend a lot of time talking about a case with difficult family dynamics. It feels useful and I leave feeling positive.

I pop in to see the client who returned home from hospital on Monday and she is doing well. I return to the office to finish catching up on my notes and update my electronic calendar before heading home for the weekend.


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9 Responses to Social work diary: ‘I buy milk and bread for a client leaving hospital’

  1. chris hatfield-marsland October 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    This does not sound like the diary of an experienced Adults SW. It sounds like the diary of a very new SW starting ASYE or a SW student. We have to pack far more into a week than that

    • Laura October 9, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      I agree. I wish I had time to wait for to greet a client at home when they have been discharged from hospital. If only, in between juggling a high case load, weekly allocation of safeguarding investigations, DOLs assessments, a day on duty dealing with emergencies and attending various meetings and funding panels. I want to work for this authority.

  2. Kathy Thomas October 9, 2017 at 8:37 pm #

    It sounds like what social work should be like… nothing like my days.

  3. Lucy October 10, 2017 at 6:39 am #

    I’d just like to say that I’m a social work student and I pack more into a week than that!

  4. Paula Swift October 11, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    I think that it should be celebrated if social workers work in an organisation that gives the opportunity to provide such a caring role.

    I am saddened by the comments of my social work colleagues.

  5. Theresa October 11, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    I’ve made time to meet a person discharged from hospital into a residential home and took the time to personalise her room with pictures and her clothes in the wardrobe. But it meant working late on another day, my caretaker threatened to burn my chair as I was often at work after 9pm. I’ve also paid a third party payment because panel wouldn’t find the extra cost. I’ve also paid for emergency accommodation for a vulnerable young man and paid bills. We should celebrate the extra mile, we may need it one day.

    • Melissa October 17, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

      Professional boundaries?

  6. Jim October 11, 2017 at 7:08 pm #

    Having just slogged 35miles back home from my job in an exceptionally busy hospital social care team I slumped down next to my wife and happened upon this article….. It reads like the social work equivalent of a mills and boon novel.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had to take bread and milk out to people in the past, but usually as an “I’ll do it on my way home” deal with my manager. No time to use paid hours for such “extras” as they have been seen in the past. Indeed I was once tasked with making a bed in order to get someone home…. And by making the bed I mean literally with screwdriver and hammer as the son had it delivered flat packed and then went home.

    These days hospital discharge is a conveyer belt of one in… One out. The pressure from the hospital management is such that if there is a team meeting they want “cover” in case something can’t wait an hour. LOS updates are also incessant and almost hourly.

    With D2A on its horizon again the service will spread that bit thinner again. The hospital don’t realise that if they move someone out of a bed and we have to do an hour each way to complete an assessment we can’t also be on the ward doing the assessment on the person who has refilled that bed.

    In case I sound too negative I want to be clear that I love my job. The opportunity to work with people at some of the most difficult times of their lives is a real honour. I’ve seen people of all ages come to an acute ward only inches from death and worked with the team to support them home when all the odds were against them. The pace is extraordinary, and over recent years the complexity of the cases is mind bending. I suppose the point I’m making is that decades ago, when I started this job, days like those described in this article existed on occasion. However, as the belts tighten, demands increase from everyone and the complexity continues to mount they are no more. I wish they were, because we gave a much better and more rounded service back then. However, like the times of my youth that, on occasion, resembled the afore mentioned novels, the reality is very different now.

  7. leah October 11, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    This is my dream social work job, what we all dared to dream of, but never got in reality. I wish we got paid to do this type of social work, it would really put the smile back permanently on my face’, and leave me to dream that there really is a pot of gold at the end of that proverbial rainbow!