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Terminal Illness and Mental Health

When faced with a diagnosis of a terminal illness, individuals, couples and families experience a myriad of issues. From end-of-life care, legal issues, and funeral planning, dying is a complicated matter that strains even the strongest relationships.

At a time when an individual is receiving advanced medical care to ease physical suffering, one must also consider the mental health of the terminally ill person, as well as the psychological well-being of their support system. Dalton Associates offers psychological counselling to support individuals and families in the trying time of end-of-life care and planning.

How Can Counselling Help?

The goals of end-of-life psychological support are to allow the best possible quality of life for the individual and to strengthen relationships that are affected by the pending loss. Counsellors may also serve as advocates for the individual’s care, while working with other professionals, including social workers, nurses and doctors.

Depression, anxiety, anger, hopelessness, despair, guilt, and fear often present themselves in the dying process. These issues can affect an individual’s judgment as it pertains to their own care and decisions, which must be made regarding end-of-life planning. An individual who is dying may express fears about becoming a burden to others, losing their autonomy, control and dignity. A counsellor can help facilitate discussion about these issues with the dying person and their support system.

Sometimes, an individual’s ability to make decisions is impaired by the illness itself or by the subsequent treatment (such as pain medication). In these cases, the decision-makers acting on that individual’s behalf can often benefit from psychological support. Conflict can arise in families who are left to decide the best course of action at the end of a loved one’s life. Support for these decision-makers is essential to ensure the best quality of life for the dying individual, and to maintain positive communication within the family structure.


American Psychological Association (2013). End-of-Life Issues and Care. Retrieved from:

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