Death and dying is a natural part of life. For most people, it comes after many long and fulfilling years. However, a few individuals encounter a serious illness or an accident that leads to hospice care and an end to life before they are ready to go. Hospice offers compassionate care for those who have an incurable disease or an advanced life-limiting illness. Care plans are custom designed to suit the needs of the individual and their support network. One key element of hospice care is to decide if a patient is suffering from depression or whether the patient is experiencing a normal grief reaction.

When Depression Is the Main Issue

Grief is a normal response when an individual must prepare for the inevitable, especially when it’s happening sooner than anyone expected it to. However, some individuals do not cope well when confronted with this diagnosis. Instead, depression takes over, causing a patient to withdraw even more. Recognizing depression can be extremely beneficial for an individual who is dealing with a difficult prognosis, such as a patient entering COPD Hospice care. Since one of the goals of hospice is to assist a patient with filling the remaining days with well-loved activities, treating clinical depression allows a patient to find peace and contentment instead of withdrawing from friends and loved ones.

Grief Takes Many Forms

When a patient deals with grief over a terminal illness, it’s normal to go through many different emotions. However, at some point, an individual learns to accept what’s happening and uses the remaining time to tie up loose ends and participate in activities that bring about joy. If an individual shows little interest in things that used to bring happiness or is overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, depression could be the cause. Depression is a normal reaction to preparatory grief. However, when a patient remains depressed and shows little interest in favorite activities, or has disturbances in appetite and sleep patterns, screening for major depression is highly recommended.

Living Life to the Fullest

No matter what phase of life a person is in, doing things that bring happiness helps with mental and emotional health. For an individual in hospice care, maintaining a positive attitude increases contentment and reduces stress. Hospice treatment plans work to manage pain so that a patient can resume activities that evoke joy. Emotional and psychological support from counselors and social workers can improve a patient’s outlook.

When to Consider Hospice Care

Enrolling in hospice care early on can greatly impact how a patient lives out the remaining time. A patient who has managed pain and a strong emotional support network may live longer than a patient who spends the majority of the time that’s left being depressed about the inevitable. Hospice caregivers can ease the transition for the patient and family members, too. Early hospice intervention focuses on keeping the patient comfortable while providing emotional and psychological support to deal with feelings of guilt and frustration. Once this hurdle is removed, it allows the individual to find peace with the situation a hand.

Everyone accepts a departure from this world differently. Grief is a normal response when a loved one has limited time left, but remaining depressed indefinitely isn’t a good thing. Hospice teaches a patient how to cope with dying and lends a hand in making the last days fulfilling. Hospice also provides comfort and compassion for friends and family members as they say goodbye.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "Diagnosing Mental Illness: Is the Hospice Patient Experiencing Normal Grief or Is It Depression?," in Medicalopedia, March 31, 2021, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9642/diagnosing-mental-illness-is-the-hospice-patient-experiencing-normal-grief-or-is-it-depression/].