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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of the medical social worker in the treatment of epilepsy : an exploratory study of cases from the Seizure Clinic of the Vancouver General Hospital Rabinovitch, Gertrude


Medical science has done much to bring epilepsy out of the realm of mysticism and misconception, into the area of normal and natural diseases; but many persons subject to seizures experience difficulty in their attempts to live as others do. It is the purpose of this thesis to examine the ways in which medical social work can help them achieve this end. The setting-up and the purpose of the Seizure Clinic of the Vancouver General Hospital is described. An examination of the social situations of fifty-three persons who were referred to the social worker during a period of seventeen months, for various kinds of help, reveals the problems which epilepsy presents to this group of people. There are numerous examples of difficulties associated with (a) parental attitudes, (b) social relationships, (c) employment, and (d) marriage. The material indicates-clearly, that blanket statements regarding "epileptics" in general, are unfair and untrue. Each is an individual who requires help with his particular difficulties. Analysis of the cases reveals that the medical social worker can contribute to the treatment of epilepsy by (a) enabling the physician to understand the patients social .situation as it affects his medical condition and his attitude toward medical treatment; (b) correcting the patient's misconceptions toward his illness, alleviating anxiety regarding treatment, and generally enabling him to obtain the greatest benefit from medical treatment; (c) helping the patient understand and accept his handicap; (d) helping parents develop healthy, attitudes toward handicapped children, in order that they may be prepared to assume the responsibilities of adulthood; (e) familiarizing persons in the community with the facts regarding epilepsy and thus eventually reducing the stigma associated with the illness. The casework methods used by the social worker include, (a) modifying the environment, (b) psychological support, (c) clarification, and (d) insight. There is sufficient evidence in this study that medical social work can in various ways and to varying degrees, help epileptic persons to be useful members of the communities in which they live.

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