Alumna helps people confront end-of-life decisions

From UMKC On the QUAD, Fall 2009. View the original print article here.

Social workers help people with life. Gloria Anderson (MSW, ’06) is helping people with an especially sensitive part of life: death.

A clinical instructor at the UMKC School of Social Work, Anderson is an international author and motivational speaker. She is founder and president of Heart Tones, a company that offers educational and inspirational workshops, presentations and products. Her personal experience with elderly relatives and extensive research for her masters’ thesis culminated in her ground-breaking publication, The African American Spiritual and Ethical Guide to End of Life Care: What Y’all Gon’ Do With Me?

All ethnicities have difficulties talking about end-of-life issues, but Anderson’s research found that it can be especially troubling for African Americans.

“Many African Americans have not had equal access or used end-of-life care options such as hospice and palliative care,” she explains. “For example, only 8 percent of African Americans utilize hospice care, as compared to 84 percent of whites.”

According to Anderson, three recurring themes affect end-of-life decision-making for many African Americans: history of disparity and mistrust, generational family values, and spirituality, religion and culture. But she says she believes the issues can be overcome through education.

I feel that speaking to and educating groups, organizations and individuals within the community is the best approach to helping increase greater access and utilization of end-of-life care services,” she says.

Anderson’s passion for helping others didn’t begin with her graduate work, though.

“I have always loved helping others, and I feel that my life course is directed to doing that,” she said. “Receiving my MSW has provided a solid foundation to do so professionally.” Anderson has presented workshops and lectured throughout the United States and Canada, and also published a motivational work, Passion For Your Purpose – Discovering Peace, Direction and Balance in Your Life, and an inspirational book of original poetry titled While I Wait.