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The Impact of Palliative Care on Patient Mental Health

Palliative Care

Updated 06-01-2024

The Impact of Palliative Care on Patient Mental Health

Palliative care is a specialised medical care for people living with serious illnesses. It focuses on providing relief from the symptoms and stress related to life-limiting conditions. The goal is to improve quality of life both for the patient and the family. However, palliative care doesn't solely target physical symptoms—it has a deeply interwoven relationship with mental health, providing a holistic approach to patient wellbeing.

Understanding Palliative Care

Before diving into the mental health aspect of palliative care, it’s essential to understand what this type of care encompasses. Palliative care is applicable early in the diagnosis and continues alongside curative treatments. A multidisciplinary team usually delivers this care, which may include doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, and chaplains.

Holistic Approach to Treatment

The holistic nature of palliative care means that it attends to the broader spectrums of a patient's health, considering not just the physical but also the emotional, social, and spiritual needs. This approach recognises that serious illness affects more than just the body, and that mental health is a critical component in patient care.

Coordinating with Other Healthcare Providers

Palliative care works in tandem with other healthcare providers to ensure that a patient's overall treatment plan is cohesive and comprehensive. This coordination allows for a smoother healthcare experience, which can alleviate stress and anxiety associated with managing a serious illness.

The Psychological Impact of Serious Illnesses

Living with a life-limiting condition often confronts patients with significant mental health challenges. The knowledge of a serious illness can trigger anxiety, depression, and a distressing awareness of one’s mortality. Without appropriate support, these psychological burdens can worsen symptoms and reduce quality of life.

Recognising the Signs of Mental Health Struggles

Palliative care teams are trained to recognise the signs of mental health struggles in their patients. They use appropriate assessments to monitor emotional wellbeing, allowing for the early detection and effective management of mental health concerns.

Palliative Care's Role in Mental Health Support

One of the core benefits of palliative care lies in its commitment to mental health support.

Offering Emotional and Psychological Support

Through counselling and therapy, palliative care can help manage anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions that may arise. Having access to a supportive environment where feelings and fears can be openly discussed is invaluable for patients.

Supporting Families and Caregivers

Palliative care also recognises the impact that a patient’s illness can have on their loved ones. Mental health support extends to family members and caregivers, helping them cope with the challenges and emotional strain.

Fostering a Sense of Control and Dignity

Allowing patients to make informed decisions about their care fosters a sense of control and maintains dignity, which can positively impact their mental health. Patient autonomy is a key principle of palliative care, helping individuals feel respected and valued in their care journey.

Integrating Mental Health Treatments into Palliative Care

The inclusion of mental health professionals within the palliative care team enables the provision of tailored psychological therapies. These may include cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness techniques, and other therapeutic modalities designed to address the specific mental health needs of palliative care patients.

The Role of Medication

In some cases, medications might be prescribed to help manage mental health symptoms. Psychotropic medication, when used judiciously and as part of a broader treatment plan, can offer significant relief.

The Evidence Behind Palliative Care's Effectiveness

Research consistently supports the positive impact of palliative care on patient mental health. Studies have shown reduced instances of depression and anxiety, improved coping mechanisms, and overall better quality of life for patients receiving palliative care.

Ongoing Research and Education

The field of palliative care is continuously evolving with ongoing research. Health professionals involved in palliative care are also committed to education, ensuring they keep abreast of the latest in mental health care and are well-prepared to provide the best possible support.

Overcoming Barriers to Accessing Palliative Care

Despite its benefits, there is a significant underutilisation of palliative care services. Public awareness initiatives and healthcare policy reforms are crucial in ensuring more patients can access these essential services.

Ending the Stigma

There is a persistent stigma associated with both palliative care and mental health. Educating the public and healthcare professionals about the benefits of palliative care can help break down these barriers.


The profound impact of palliative care on patient mental health cannot be understated. By adopting a person-centered approach that prioritises psychological wellbeing alongside physical health, palliative care plays a pivotal role in alleviating the emotional burden of serious illness. It is an indispensable aspect of comprehensive healthcare, offering a beacon of comfort, dignity, and hope to patients and their families during their most challenging times.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.
Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow caregivers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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