Psychological Support: Suitable Approaches For Patients in Hospice Care

Mental health is one of the most affected aspects of a patient’s well-being while in hospice care. Most people will, however, dismiss the outward manifestation of psychological issues as the side effects of a physical or medical condition. Caregivers who didn’t receive enough training in mental health care for hospice patients, and therefore cannot recognize symptoms of mental distress, can contribute little to a patient’s quality of life.

To ensure that hospice patients get the quality care they deserve, caregivers and hospice employees will do well to learn psychotherapy. It is a cornerstone of patient care in certified hospice centers.

The psychotherapy approaches which may be part of the palliative care services in Indiana-based hospice centers are other forms of psychotherapy. The unique situation of a dying patient, however, means that the psychotherapy will aim at creating change in the patient’s emotional and social well-being. The therapy, in this case, is also time-focused and requires careful coordination with the nursing care of the patient.

The following are some psychotherapy techniques used in the psychosocial support of patients in hospice.

The Psychodynamic Approach

Death is considered the final phase of ego development. The psychodynamic approach aims to address the defense mechanisms and emotional conflicts associated with mortality. Patients will have different defense methods when faced with a terminal condition diagnosis. The common defense mechanisms are denial, regression, displacement, and projection. A psychodynamic therapy approach helps patients recognize, confront and replace their defenses and develop a healthy attitude toward death.

The Humanistic Approach

Psychologist and Patient

This approach recognizes death as an essential part of human life, and that living the ‘’good life’’ includes confronting the reality of death. The awareness of death helps clarify their purpose and values in life. In the humanistic approach, a therapist aims to help hospice patients live life to the fullest, even in when facing death. The therapist will encourage the patients’ expression and growth and boost their chances of self-actualization without giving them false hopes.

The Behavioral Approach

This focuses on educating patients on what they can do to cope with their impending death. Stressful situations caused by the fear of death may result in a range of physical symptoms. In behavioral therapy, a patient can be taught how to manage his/her anxiety through exercises, desensitization, and self-management. The approach addresses specific symptoms so that a patient’s discomfort and pain may be reduced.

The Family Approach

This approach involves a patient’s entire family. Though all forms of psychotherapy call for the participation of a patient’s family and friends, the family approach aims to foster a close relationship between patients and their families by encouraging everyone to share their feelings. This is particularly helpful to families with a history of conflict. Psychotherapy can help them gain closure and cope with their family member’s terminal illnesses.

If the main goal is to ensure the well-being of the patient then why must hospices also pay attention to the mental well-being of the families? It’s because family should be a source of strength and optimism for patients with terminal illnesses. They will fail on this score if their mental health is also on shaky ground.

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