Common Psychological Issues in Patients with Terminal Conditions

terminal condition

The term hospice care conjures a picture of sadness and loneliness in most people. This is because the patients here have been diagnosed with life-limiting conditions. Well, hospice might be the happiest place in today’s medical field because it has moved from the hopeless place it might have been in the past to one filled with hope and where happy memories are made.

Hospice care services have achieved this transformation by taking care of the patients’ well being. Experts in the care of patients with terminal illnesses now realize the essence of the physical and emotional well being of a patient in the outcome of care. The following are among the psychological issues addressed in hospice care to boost the emotional and physical well being of patients and their loved ones.

Anticipatory Grief

Mourning in patients with a terminal illness and their loved ones begins long before a death occurs. In fact, it starts immediately after the doctor hands in the diagnosis or lab results. This is evidenced as an emotional withdrawal of patients, extreme attachment to the patient by the loved ones, and increased anxiety. Anticipatory grief will considerably affect the quality of life of a patient and the time he/she spends with his/her loved ones. In addressing this, psychologists will focus on the life a patient has left rather than the rigors of the disease process.

Caregiver Stress

The physical and emotional stress associated with caring for a terminally ill patient will take a toll on even the strongest caregiver. Caregiver stress can be manifested as anxiety, anger, regret, and guilt. In these instances, psychologists will teach the caregiver various techniques of handling the stress that comes with patient care. Hospice centers also offer respite services for caregivers to unwind and take care of themselves to reduce the chances of stress. There are also support groups for caregivers so that they can share their stress coping mechanisms and experiences.

Stigma

Most terminally ill patients also have to cope with stigma on different levels. This takes a huge emotional toll on them and reduces the impact of various forms of hospice care. Hospice centers have now invested in various community education programs. If communities can understand a terminal condition’s progression, the incidences of stigmatization can be lowered. Moreover, hospice psychologists will also teach patients different techniques for coping with stigmatization.

Denial

patient holding relatives hand

Some patients will disregard their diagnosis and live hoping they will wake up and find that the diagnosis was just a bad dream. Unfortunately, this only contributes to poor outcomes in hospice care since patients seek services when the disease has significantly progressed. The first step in hospice care is to help patients and their families accept the diagnosis and work towards living positively with it.

Some people disregard the psychological impact of a terminal condition on a patient and his/her family. The above issues will, however, determine the efficacy of proper care in all terminally ill patients. Addressing them is essential for all patients and loved ones aiming for an optimal outcome in hospice care. The techniques used in hospice psychological interventions are not the same as those in conventional psychology. To this end, a visit to just about any psychologist might not suffice.

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