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Counselling for Patients Who are in Near End-of-Life Care

By Jan Bolder - April 14, 2014

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When a patient is nearing the end of his or her life and has sought hospice care, the emotional and psychological adjustments can be tough. Fortunately, there are counsellors skilled in this area, and they can help set the patient's mind at ease. As one of the biggest hurdles to get used to is dealing with the unknown, counsellors can use their experience and history to help the patient with navigating the end of their life.

Counselling for the Family

While hospice care, or end-of-life care, sees the primary focus on the patient, the family and caregivers matter, too. They're the ones who have to soldier on, attending to the patient's needs, and then deal with the aftermath once the patient is gone. It can be a burdensome task and family members need an outlet for it.

This is where counsellors come in, helping them deal with the frustrations, fears, anxieties, and any other issues they may be facing. For example, a counselling session could consist on focusing on the patient's character and personality instead of what's wrong with them. This helps family members focus on the positive aspects, but not at the expense of pretending the whole situation doesn't exist.

Counselling for the Patient

As hard as it is for a family member to see one of their own nearing the end of life, it's 10 times scarier for the patient. They're the ones who have to deal with a failing body, entering into unknown territory, fears and anxieties about what lies ahead, hoping they'll still be cognitively intact, and then living that every second of every day.

It's hugely important to talk about all that because while it won't actually alter the situation or its outcome, it does help the patient control their reaction to it. One of the scariest things about dying is that control over your life has been wrested from you, but patients can feel as though they still have a hand in the situation if they can control how they feel about it.

Going Through a Checklist

Also known as getting your affairs in order, hospice care means that there's now a smaller window than before to organize things. A counsellor can easily help with these matters, as they've counselled plenty of other families before yours and know how to zero in on the following:


  • Keeping passwords in one central location
  • Canceling subscriptions or memberships for things like the newspaper, cable, internet, credit cards, and more
  • Making or updating a last will and testament
  • Personal information, like SSN, driver's license, and more, in one central location

    The list of what affairs to get in order is a lengthy one (here's a link that elaborates more on it), and counsellors can help ease the troubles you're experiencing with them. One thing to keep in mind: they can't actually do the work for you, just help you relax about it and take it one step at a time.

    Remember to Breathe

    As a last bit of advice, counsellors will focus on guiding you through the process so it's as easy as possible on everyone. This doesn't mean they can wave a magic wand and suddenly make everything better, or their presence is guaranteed to help, but near end-of-life counsellors are like helmets: it doesn't hurt to have one, and going without can make things a lot worse.