In the Face of Death: Professionals Who Care for the Dying and the Bereaved, by Danai Papadatou, Springer Publishing Company, New York, 2009, 330 pages, $55.00.
In the Face of Death is a book for those who work with and care for terminally ill patients and their bereaved friends and family members. Caring for the dying and bereaved presents unique circumstances and considerations for those who choose to go into this field of work. Physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists, clergy, and counselors are just some of the key players who make up the team of professionals who work with the dying population and the bereaved. It is imperative for these professionals to understand that the work they do has a tremendous impact on not only the well-being of the patients and their loved ones when administering palliative care, but affects them, as well.
Papadatou explains that the quality of care that patients receive from the professionals who care for them at this critical time in their lives is largely affected by the quality of the relationship that transpires between the patient and the professional. Although “dying and bereaved people know that not every aspect of suffering can be relieved,” Papadatou tells us that they are often looking for “a secure relationship with someone who can listen, accept, and contain their suffering; take care of them; and genuinely care for them as they strive to cope with issues related to their existence.”
Maintaining this type of relationship with the dying and bereaved, especially over a long period of time, can be tremendously stressful for the professional. This stress, if not dealt with properly, can lead to burnout for the professional who is involved in this type of work.
Papadatou’s book addresses the caring relationship between the patient and the professional. It offers an insight into the life of the care provider in death situations, with a focus on dealing with professional grief, as well as the teamwork necessary to provide a continuum of care that touches on all aspects of the well-being of the patient and the bereaved. At the end of the book, Papadatou explains the challenges and the importance of educating health care professionals who work with the dying and bereaved.
Anyone who is considering this type of work, as well as those already in the field, would do well to read this book. The insights that Papadatou gives to the reader concerning all aspects of care for the dying and bereaved are informative and thought-provoking. Papadatou challenges the reader to recognize that “our choice to accompany people through dying and bereavement is not determined by our workload, but rather by our choice, commitment and competence to assume such a task.” Papadatou not only shares her exceptional knowledge base with her readers, but intersperses her writing with interesting excerpts from Greek mythology, which keeps her book interesting and educational.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lee Camp, BSW student at Richard Stockton College of NJ and Unit Chair for the Cape May-Atlantic-Cumberland NASW-NJ.
Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies, by Chloe E. Bird and Patricia P. Rieker, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2008, 256 pages, $25.99.
Bird and Rieker’s book is current, given the national discussion over health care reform. Interestingly, many of the important points the authors make in their book are absent from the discussion about health care reform, such as the discrepancies in health outcomes for men and women. The authors’ goal in writing the book is to encourage collaboration between social and biomedical scientists to “examine, explain, and address gender-based health differences,” so as to create better understanding of health as it relates to gender, but also create “effective and efficient” interventions for the improvement in this field. The book is comprehensive in considering the multiple aspects of the issue.
The book is well organized and presents the reader with an in-depth description of the multiple variables involved at each level of analysis. First, the authors address gender differences in health-related matters, with biological and social connotations. For example, they discuss gender differences as they relate to physical health (cardiovascular disease, and immune function and disorders) and mental health (depressive disorders and substance abuse). Another chapter explains in detail the concept of constrained choice and how it affects everyday decisions as they relate to health. The authors thoroughly illustrate how decisions and actions by governments, states, communities, employers, and families directly and indirectly influence health and gender differences in health, by constraining individual choices. Next, the authors analyze the interrelations between national social policies and constrained choice, as well as how health and constrained choices relate to the community level. Later, they explore the concepts as they relate to individuals and families. The researchers also devote a chapter to suggestions on how to improve the current state of health care as it relates to research in the social and biological fields; interventions (considering constrained choices); considerations for policymakers at the national, community, and workplace levels; and individual men and women and families.
The authors are systematic in their approach and offer a detailed perspective on the multiple complexities involved in the issue of health, including gender differences often ignored in policy making, and new avenues for research. Especially valuable is the international perspective that the book incorporates, as it helps the reader by informing on policy decisions and data of other countries in an objective manner. In the current debate in the U.S. over health care reform, many of the points addressed by the authors are absent from the discussion, which makes the book all the more significant, considering the impact social workers can have as agents of change. The book is a great resource for students and professionals seeking to understand the interrelations between policy and practice at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels, following an ecological perspective (even though the authors do not address it in these terms). It integrates the core areas of social work when analyzing gender and health, and the reader walks away with a well-rounded idea of the interactions between multiple levels of policy and practice.
Reviewed by Maria A. Silva-Tucci, MSW.
Ethical Practice in Grief Counseling, by Louis A. Gamino and R. Hal Ritter, Jr., Springer Publishing Company, New York, 2009, 419 pages, $50.00.
Each social work career path is wrought with its own particular set of ethical situations and dilemmas. Appropriate practice can only be reliably achieved through skillful application of ethical guidelines firmly rooted in informed, reasoned policies. With Ethical Practice in Grief Counseling, Louis Gamino and Hal Ritter provide practitioners of grief work an excellent resource for establishing an ethically sound practice built upon a solid foundation.
To provide philosophical background for the body of the book, Gamino and Ritter supply the reader with a cursory introduction to ethics, similar to what might be presented in an undergraduate philosophy course. Because many readers may not have formal background in the philosophical underpinnings of ethics, I found this basic introduction appropriate. Broad categories of ethical theories are described in an easy-to-understand manner, free from much of the technical jargon that might be found in a philosophy textbook.
Early on, the authors establish their "Five P” model (Person, Problem, Place, Principle, Process) for ethical decision making and apply it to a case example. Although applied here to a grief counseling situation, the framework will also be useful in other fields of practice. The “Five P” approach is sensitive to the particular nature of a given situation and its many different elements, first and foremost the people involved.
The book also establishes criteria for competence as a grief counselor, in accordance with the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC), and explores some of the many legal issues surrounding grief work. Chapters dealing with practice topics include consent, confidentiality, multiple relationships, the expert witness situation, and reporting a colleague for inappropriate conduct. Each of these provides a detailed exploration of some of the factors that must be considered by grief counselors.
The authors devote a chapter to consideration of the myriad ethnic, cultural, and spiritual presentations grief counselors may encounter and appropriate ways to work with those clients. They also give a nod to the changing face of technology and how it affects the field of grief work in the section on Internet-based grief counseling.
Gamino and Ritter include appendices that will be useful for practitioners. Included are the ADEC Code of Ethics, the authors’ “Five P” model, a sample professional will (in the event of the death of a grief counselor), and a sample client brochure. These tools should provide excellent starting points for early-career grief counselors and helpful alternative suggestions for those in the field even for many years.
In all, I found Ethical Practice in Grief Counseling to be a carefully laid out, well executed reference book for social workers, counselors, pastors, and psychologists who work in this arena. Instructors who concentrate on ethics might also find the case studies to be useful instructional tools. Gamino and Ritter covered a great deal of ground in an easy-to-read style that is respectful to both the reader and the subject matter.
Reviewed by Bob McKinney, MSW, LGSW, Assistant Director of Tuscaloosa’s One Place, A Family Resource Center, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Social Work.
If You Tell...It Will Kill Your Mother, by Ardith Trudzik, Borealis Press, Ottawa, Canada, 2009, 309 pages, $19.95.
“Well, you sure have a powerful imagination, Ardith. But don’t expect me to believe that yarn. You’re just spoofing. But you can’t spoof me.” If You Tell...It Will Kill Your Mother tells the true story of Ardith’s life. Ardith’s paternal grandfather sexually molested her over an 8-year period, beginning when Ardith was four. As a child, Ardith attempted to reach out to her mother by disclosing one of her alter personalities, Janet, who served as a protector to Ardith’s physical abuse. Ardith’s mother believed that Janet was only a figment of her daughters’ vivid childhood imagination. As a result of her mom’s disbelief, a second alter, “Spoofy,” was introduced. It is interesting to take notice of how she created the name directly from her mother’s response when she helplessly tried to reveal her painstaking secrets of physical abuse. Spoofy revealed, “You mustn’t tell Mummy what Gwanddad does. It might be dangewous if she found out. Didn’t Gwanddad say it would kill hew?”
Ardith’s uncle, another entrusted family member, brutally and physically abused her upon his return from war. Ardith became terribly confused by the trauma of abuse by two entrusted family members. Both abusers coerced her into believing that if she disclosed the secrets of abuse, her mother would be killed. This double betrayal of trauma caused her inability to disclose, and she began to experience episodes of unconsciousness and tremors in the form of seizures.
Sadly, a third perpetrator was a psychiatrist who treated Ardith and became fascinated by one of her alter personalities, seducing her during treatment. Years later, as an adult, Ardith introduced yet another personality named Judas, who terrorized her and caused great bodily harm. This led to her hospitalization. Ardith began intensive treatment under the care of Dr. Fogarty. Dr. Fogarty noted, “Ardith is a woman who has hurt her body as a result of childhood trauma. Now she has re-enacted the harm done to her as a child, since she was not protected as a child. An intentional wounding to one’s own body is known as Trauma Reenactment Syndrome.”
Extensive treatment began following the self-mutilization episode. Dr. Fogarty diagnosed Ardith with Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Disorder. The symptoms and behaviors of DD were clearly demonstrated in Ardith’s journal, which included several poems that were associated with each episode she painfully endured, “from the sharp liniment burn and I float away leave another girl there to stay and take the pain.” Dr. Fogarty and therapist Rose believed self-esteem and goal-setting were key elements to the intervention process. This journey is presented as a valuable resource and learning experience for both students and educators.
Through this book, one can follow Ardith’s medical treatment and truly embrace the powerful struggle of recovery. Ardith’s heroic story of survival demonstrates the importance of proper diagnosis versus undiagnosed treatment, which can lead to accidental mistreatment of vulnerable patients. Ardith’s testimony hopes “to increase the awareness and hope of others who have suffered in silence.”
Reviewed by Nadine DeRose, MSW student at California State University at Los Angeles.
My Story: Blogs by Four Military Teens, by Michelle D. Sherman and DeAnne M. Sherman, Beaver’s Pond Press, Edina, MN, 2009, 51 pages, $12.95.
My Story provides the reader with an inside glimpse into the lives of four fictional military teens. Written in the form of blogs, the book covers common themes for teens whose parents are deployed. Mariah, whose mother is in Iraq, talks about her feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. She adjusts to her mom’s absence by joining a military kids’ support group at school, helping out more at home, and staying active in everyday activities, such as the school play. Her blog spans a period of a year and a half, from her mom’s deployment until her return. When her mom returns home, there are additional adjustment issues. Mariah and her family are faced with learning a “new normal.” The other blogs include Adam, whose dad is in the Air Force Reserves and has PTSD; Carlos, whose dad is in the Marines and becomes wounded in Iraq; and Meredith, who becomes depressed when things change in her family after her dad returns from Afghanistan. Each blog ends with a list of “things I learned” and “something to think about.” The book ends with pages for the reader to write his or her own story of adjustment to a parent’s deployment and homecoming, followed by a glossary of terms.
The mother-daughter team of Michelle and DeAnne Sherman approach an important topic in a very creative way. This easy-to-read book, which can easily be completed in one sitting, can serve as a means to start an otherwise difficult conversation with teens who are coping with a parent in the military.
Reviewed by Linda May Grobman, ACSW, LSW, publisher/editor of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER.
These reviews are from the Spring 2010 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER. Copyright 2010 White Hat Communications. All rights reserved.