Psychological symptoms are highly prevalent in people requiring palliative care. They are much more challenging to elicit, and more controversy exists about what is normal and what might require intervention than physical symptoms. There are significant issues in determining what is normal and what is not. Sadness, distress, anxiety, and depression can coexist and require careful assessment.
Management of psychological symptoms and conditions can broadly be considered in terms of non-pharmacological and pharmacological therapies, “the talking and the drug therapies.” These are not mutually exclusive, and for people with limited energy, failing cognition, and limited time, some pragmatic decisions may be necessary. To be distressed and immobilized by emotion is not normal. Depression is not a normal part of dying. There should be discussion about the nature of psychological issues and conditions, explanation of common somatic symptoms, and a plan for intervention and support.
The burden on the carer, both professional and personal, in such situations should not be underestimated.
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