IAHPC book reviews

2014; Volume 15, No 8, August

IAHPC book reviews

By Dr. Roger Woodruff

Palliative Care book of the month

William Breitbart and Yesne Alici
Oxford University Press, 2014
179 pp
ISBN 978-0-19-991740-2
RRP $US49.95 £32.99

I thought this was a gem of a little book. The blurb says it ‘guides the psycho-oncologist through the most salient aspects of effective psychiatric care of patients with advanced illnesses.’ But I think it is much more—it is a pocket-sized and succinct guide to the psychological and psychiatric problems encountered in palliative care, not just with the oncology patients, but I think it will be of value to any doctors or nurses working in palliative care.

The first section deals with palliative care in general and the role of the psycho-oncologist in palliative care; again, the implication that it is limited to cancer patients seems inappropriate. The second section consists of four chapters about psychiatric disorders in palliative care—anxiety, depression, suicide and desire for hastened death, and delirium. The third section includes seven chapters on the psychological aspects of the management of other issues in palliative care including fatigue, pain, and grief and bereavement. There are chapters about the role of psychotherapy in palliative care, cross-cultural issues, the importance of doctor-patient communication, and the management of spiritual and existential issues. The text is to the point and brief, but there are lots of boxes (filled with bullet-point lists), as well as tables and figures (189 in all), containing a wealth of information that seems to be well referenced.

I remain a fan of the longer books such asChochinov and Breitbart’s Handbook of Psychiatry in Palliative Medicine 2e (OUP, 2009) and Holland et al’s Psycho-Oncology 2e (OUP, 2010), which are essential references for more detailed study. But for quick day-to-day reference, particularly for more junior staff, I think Psychosocial Palliative Care has a lot going for it.

Other Reviews

Robert Youdin
Springer Publishing, 2014
258 pp
ISBN 978-0-8261-2989-5
RRP US$75.00 £55.95

Review copy supplied by Footprint Books.

This book is about social work practice with older adults—the ‘silver tsunami’ as we baby-boomers retire. The first part includes chapters on ways of categorising older adults and their problems, assessing them, methods of interventions, and an interesting chapter on stigma and older adults. Part II is about the problems encountered in gerontological social work practice and includes chapters on psychopathology, dementia, medical problems, substance abuse, sexuality, older adult abuse, GLBT, and dying and death. The material appeared well set out and the discussion seemed focused on the real world and was augmented by case studies. It appeared adequately referenced with a 43-page bibliography.

This book provides a good introduction to gerontological care for students of social work, for whom it was written, but should also be of interest to social workers who work in palliative care, where an increasing proportion of their patients will be older adults. And given the role-overlapping that exists in palliative care, I thought it would be of interest to nurses and doctors who are interested in the problems older people face, viewed from a slightly different angle (i.e. social work), and how they can be managed.

Strategies to Improve Outcomes
Ileana Piña and Elizabeth Madigan (Eds.)
Cardiotext Publishing, 2013
125 pp
ISBN 978-1-935395-50-8
RRP $US37.05 £30.00

This is the first volume of The Cardiovascular Team Approach series produced by Cardiotext. It is about an integrated multidisciplinary approach to the management of heart failure and the roles of the various specialists (physicians, nurse specialists, pharmacist, nutritionist and social worker) in that care. Far be it from me to suggest that this does not provide optimal care for the majority of patients for most of the time, but matters related to palliative care are not well portrayed. Whilst stating that ‘palliative care teams can enhance care throughout the stages of heart failure, and standard medical guidelines can be followed simultaneously with palliative care approaches,’ they do not sound convinced and refer to the ‘transition to palliative care.’ Except in the sad story told in their second case study, there is no mention of progressive disease, dying and death. And is it true that patients with advanced heart failure always have ‘disease burdens’ greater than patients with solid tumours? Is it true that prognostication is always much more difficult?

This book seems to be very much about the front end of the course of heart failure and there is no discussion of intensive palliative care to help these patients when they are dying. For people who work in palliative care, Johnson et al’s Heart Failure. From Advanced Disease to Bereavement (OUP, 2012)—reviewed in the May Newsletter—is much better value, with its chapters on communication, advance care planning, the management of pain and other symptoms as well as psychosocial and spiritual matters, and how to care for the dying patient.

Roger Woodruff, MD (Australia)
(July 2014)
Dr. Woodruff is a Lifetime Member of the IAHPC Board and Past Chair. His bio may be found here.

Note for authors and publishers: If you wish to have your book reviewed, please send to:

Dr Roger Woodruff
IAHPC Bookshop Editor
210 Burgundy St, Suite 9
Heidelberg, Victoria 3084

Note: Review copies become property of IAHPC and are not returned to the author. Only palliative care related books which are previously approved will be reviewed. Due to the large number of requests, we can´t provide exact dates of when books will be reviewed.

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