Psychological Support in Palliative Care

Categories: Care and Community Engagement.

Psychological health and support is important in every stage and season in life but more so in Persons Living with Palliative Care Needs (PLWPCNs). It is important that psychological care is provided to PLWPCNs and their families. This can be done through a range of medical, nursing, and allied healthcare professionals.

Psychological care also focuses on the psychological and emotional wellbeing of their loved ones/caregivers. This is inclusive of self-esteem, adaptation to the illness, consequences, social functioning, and relationships.

When a patient has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, there is likely to be a range of emotional responses in the patient and their family members. These emotions include:

  1. Fear. It can be fear of the body deteriorating, total dependence on people, pain, or the consequences their death may have on their loved ones.
  2. Sadness. This can be caused by thoughts that a patient is nearing the end of life. They still have dreams and ambitions they would love to actualize. The end of life is a difficult time for patients and their loved ones.
  3. Confusion. This can happen when the news of being diagnosed with an illness comes as a shock. What next?
  4. Anger. Rage can be expressed as the patient vents. They may ask why it had to happen to them. This emotion can be felt also after unsuccessful treatment.
  5. Low self-esteem. This can be caused by the changes that take place in the body like loss of weight and dependence on people to live. Socioeconomic effects can lead to depression. Some patients spend all their resources on treatment and they are drained financially.

Those are a few of the emotions that may be experienced by PLWPCNs. In the case of an advanced illness, the patients’ ability to perform everyday social tasks such as cleaning and running errands and may necessitate the daily involvement of caregivers.

Sometimes, a life-limiting illness can have an impact on relationships between patients and their family and friends. You may find that a patient is dependent on a partner or someone who lives with him in feeding and cleaning. Even caregivers get overwhelmed sometimes. They wish things could go back to how they used to be, a brother, spouse, sister instead of being a full-time caregiver.

The psychological and social consequences can also be referred to as nonmedical needs of PLWPCNs. Psychological needs are interconnected with physical needs. When a patient is in distress or anxious it can impact his/her impact of pain. Likewise, the physical symptom may impact his/her psychological well-being.

In psychological care, patients get to understand their illness/sickness, the options in terms of palliative treatment, and the drawbacks of each so they could make an informed decision. Patients also get to understand their options and make plans for their future. In addition, practical help with daily activities may be provided. You may also help the patient or family members access the financial aid they may be entitled to. Fatigue management also needs to be addressed so the patients can conserve their energy.

Even in the unfortunate incident of death, bereavement services are offered to the family and friends to help them cope with the loss.

Psychological care can be provided in various ways. It is important to encourage patient and family agenda setting and advanced care planning. Psychological care can be provided at any stage of a patients’ illness. Psychological care not only can but also should be provided by everyone involved in a patient’s well-being in order to achieve holistic palliative care.


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