Doing our bit to ease the pain

Sheila Payne and Rebecca Haines describe the potential contribution of psychology to palliative care.
PSYCHOLOGISTS and others have long recognised that the experience of loss, especially through the death of important people in your life, represents a challenge (Bowlby, 1980; Parkes, 1996). Even the much-criticised Life Events Scale developed by Holmes and Rahe (1967) categorised loss of a spouse as the most stressful event a person is likely to encounter. Dealing with patients and their families facing the end of their life and the loss of important relationships is a central part of the work of psychologists working in palliative care. This article is about the potential of psychology to contribute to improving care for adults with advanced disease who are nearing the end of their life. We will define palliative care and briefly describe the range of services available to very ill and dying people and their families. We show how psychologists can contribute to improving care by working directly with patients and families doing psychological assessment and therapy, working with health and social care professionals and volunteers, and developing research.

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