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Bio-psycho-social-spiritual needs of adolescents and young adults with life-threatening illnesses: Implications for social work practice

Journal title
Social work in health care
Publication year
Beerbower, E.; Winters, D.; Kondrat, D.

This paper explores the biopsychosocial and spiritual needs of adolescents and young adults (AYA) with life-threatening or terminal illnesses. AYA are situated between childhood and adulthood (ages 15-25) and have distinct biopsychosocial and spiritual needs unique to their developmental stage. Having a life-threatening or terminal illness directly challenges normal AYA developmental tasks and identity formation. AYA experience more troubling physical symptoms during the dying process compared to other age groups, which leads to significant psychological distress and an increased need for pharmacological treatments. In general, AYA desire to be fully informed and involved in the health care decision-making process, leading to ethical dilemmas when the AYA is a minor and their wishes differ from the wishes of their legal guardian(s). Social workers are especially well-equipped to serve this population due to aligning professional standards and ability to advocate for holistic care within interdisciplinary teams. Additional research is needed to tailor holistic interventions to meet the needs of this population.

Research abstracts