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Palliative Care

A Guide for Health Social Workers

Edited by Bridget Sumser, Meagan Leimena, and Terry Altilio

Publication Date - 30 January 2019

ISBN: 9780190669607

312 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Palliative Care serves as an innovative, practical resource to help equip health social workers with theoretical and clinical tools to integrate palliative care principles into practice with individuals, families, teams, and institutions.


Accessible and instructive,ÂPalliative CareÂguides and inspires health social workers to incorporate palliative care principles into their current clinical practice. Through the lenses of environmental theory and intersectionality, rich case narratives highlight opportunities for social workers to enhance their work, advancing whole-person care in the face of serious illness. Chapters include questions to concretize ideas and demonstrate real-world application, while case narratives cover a range of settings, diagnoses, and populations. This book is a useful tool for educators, learners, and practicing social workers working with individuals and families navigating complex health care systems.


  • Integrates environmental theory with intersectionality using a theoretical framework
  • Uses narrative examples that cover various demographic populations, health care settings, diagnoses, and illness trajectories
  • Features contributing authors representing a range of clinicians, academics, and educators
  • Models documentation to inform clinical work while respecting confidentiality
  • Shares assessment questions that link chapter content to practice and policy
  • Highlights opportunities for health social workers to integrate palliative care into current practice

About the Author(s)

Bridget Sumser, MSW, Clinical Social Worker, University of California, San Francisco Medical Center

Meagan Leimena, MSW, MPH, Palliative Care Social Work Consultant

Terry Altilio, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, Social Work Coordinator, Division of Palliative Care, Mount Sinai Beth Israel


"This book is (I think) a celebration of the achievements of social work in the field of palliative care, and an invitation for social workers in other areas to adopt the principles and practices developed in palliative care." -- Roger Woodruff, www.hospicecare.com

"Palliative Care captures the central role of social work in care of seriously ill patients and families. Chapters are organized consistently with the domains of the National Consensus Project Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, further illustrating the role of social work across every domain. It is a 'Guide for Health Social Workers,' but the deep and rich content of this book could be a guide for all professionals." --Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN, MA, FAAN, FPCN, CHPN, Professor and Director, City of Hope

"As our population ages, there will be an increase in illnesses such as cancer and heart disease, and this book will prove very useful to both the quality of care and the longevity of practitioners who are learning or might have many years' experience in the field and would value information on best practices in palliative care." --Penny Damaskos, PhD, LCSW, OSW-C, Director, Department of Social Work, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

"Everybody now knows that the majority of health care problems are driven by social determinants of health--lack of housing, food, safe neighborhoods, social supports--issues that the traditional practice of medicine is largely helpless to fix. This textbook illuminates the essential role of social work in addressing these factors during a serious illness. The effectiveness of palliative care in helping people living with serious illness to achieve what matters most to them is due to the determined advocacy and resilience of the social workers on our teams. This book shows how it's done." --Diane E. Meier, MD, FACP, Director, Center to Advance Palliative Care; Vice-Chair and Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

"Rooted in complex reality, the counsel in this book is intensive and practical. The authors and their editors push us to see beyond medical diagnoses to the person, and through the person to the social and cultural contexts that make us more than individuals. In other words, it succeeds in examining the enormous potential of palliative care, which, in practice, is still largely unrealized. Altogether, this book is a fantastic read for anyone interested in caring for humans." --BJ Miller, MD, Hospice and Palliative Care Specialist, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Table of Contents

    Foreword, Shirley Otis- Green, Mercedes Bern- Klug, Barbara Jones, and Stacy Remke
    Introduction: In Plain Sight, Terry Altilio, Meagan Lyon Leimena, and Bridget Sumser
    1. The Convergence of Social Work Practice: Integrating Health Social Work and Specialized Palliative Care, Colleen M. Mulkerin
    2. Structure and Processes of Care, Anne Kelemen and Regina Tosca
    3. Physical Aspects of Care, Terry Altilio and Meagan Lyon Leimena
    4. Psychological Aspects of Care, Christopher Onderdonk and Kathryn Thornberry
    5. Social Aspects of Care, Karra Bikson
    6. Spiritual, Religious, and Existential Dimensions of Care, Dana Ribeiro Miller, Melissa Stewart, and Bridget Sumser
    7. Cultural Aspects of Care, Yvette Colón
    8. Care of Patients and Families at the End of Life, Susan Conceicao and Ginny Swenson
    9. Legal and Ethical Aspects of Care, Kathryn M. Smolinski
    10. Special Issues in Children and Older Adults, Terry Altilio, Meagan Lyon Leimena, Bridget Sumser, Allie Shukraft, Martha Schermer, Mercedes Bern- Klug, and Amy L. Lemke
    Epilogue, Terry Altilio
    Patient Narratives
    General Resources
    Technical Reports and Issue Briefs
    Timeline of Seminal Publications, Decisions, and Events
    Training Opportunities
    Domestic Resources and Organizations
    International Resources and Organizations
    Hospice Eligibility and Benefits Information
    Additional Reading

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