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Families and Family Conferencing 

Families and Family Conferencing
Families and Family Conferencing
Oxford Textbook of Palliative Social Work

Iris Cohen Fineberg

and Amy Bauer


This textbook on palliative social work is a companion volume to the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine and the Oxford Textbook of Palliative Nursing. To that end, this chapter will accomplish the following:

The family is the central social system in which people experience serious illness and face end of life, regardless of how involved or absent the family is in people's lives.

Palliative care recognizes the family, including the patient, as the unit of care. This requires a systemic perspective that integrates individual- and family-oriented approaches to palliative social work assessment, intervention, and overall practice. Designation of who constitutes “family” should be based on the patient's guidance.

Social workers are uniquely educated and positioned to provide expertise and leadership within the palliative care team regarding family care. Their background in family systems, family and group dynamics, and family therapy provides strong theoretical grounding for professional practice.

Communication in the setting of palliative care has a tremendous impact on the patient and family experience of what is a momentous life process. Family conferences are a powerful clinical tool for family and team communication and represent an ideal forum for social work leadership in palliative care.

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