A social support system is an organization, agency, group of people, or a person with direct or indirect access to a patient or to patients. In this case, the chosen social support system for a patient is a person responsible for helping the patient’s illness improve. According to Uchino et al., the social support system is perceived as a psychosocial factor that influences the physical health outcome. Minimized social support levels are likely to lead to a high mortality rate.
To understand how the social support system helps improve the patient’s illness outcome, it is essential to understand the attachment theory that guides close person-to-person relationships, according to Pietromonaco et al. The attachment theory focuses on the relationship between the patient and a close relative such as a parent, sibling, or spouse.
This attachment figure ensures the patient receives emotional support, alleviates distress, and combats physical harm efficiently due to the proximity of the relationship. Attachment theory focuses on providing care to the patient, comfort, and reassurance. The caregivers help the patient with various daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, or providing transportation to the patient and their financial support when in need.
Social interactions influence the patient’s health outcomes, and therefore, it is essential to assess the quality of the patient’s social support system. According to Barger, it is necessary to evaluate the availability of the social support system, its reliability, and its validity. Three questions that might be important for assessing a patient’s social support system include:
- How often do you have access to social and emotional support?
- Do you attend group activities such as a religious service or go out to eat?
- When was the recent contact you made with friends or relatives?
This set of questions is aimed at assessing the availability of the social support system and if the patient maintains social interactions.
Medical social support plays a critical role in improving the quality of social support for patients. According to Liechty, they are responsible for working closely with the family of the patient or caregiver agency to plan where the patient will live. The medical social worker also ensures they can assess the patient’s social, emotional, financial, and support needs.
The medical social worker also plans the discharge of the patient and ensures the patient’s requirements, including medication, are put in place before being discharged. The active coping strategy should be applied to improve the social support system as it ensures the patients have more control of their situation and are more optimistic about getting better.