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Working in the palliative care sector during the holiday season can bring a unique blend of challenges and rewards. It’s a time when the contrast between celebration and the reality of a terminal illness becomes even more pronounced. As a health professional, it is about easing the burdens of those facing end-of-life circumstances, providing comfort, and preserving the spirit of the season. This sector demands unwavering dedication, compassion, and emotional resilience.

To help, we’ve put together some tips to help you support your patients and yourself during the holiday period.

Provide emotional and psychological support

During the holiday season, while most people are immersed in festivities and joy, those in palliative care are acutely aware of the emotional toll these times can have on patients and their families. Those with a terminal diagnosis often grapple with the knowledge that these may be their last holidays, and emotions range from sadness to nostalgia to a desire to make the most of the time left. As a healthcare professional working in palliative care, you can help to support and guide them through this emotionally charged period.

One of the key roles during this time is providing emotional and psychological support. There are several ways that you may provide comfort to your patients and their family:

  • Offer a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on.
  • Help patients and families process their feelings, reminisce about past holidays, and plan meaningful experiences for the present.
  • Organise special gatherings.
  • Help patients fulfill wish lists.
  • Simply ensure a warm and caring environment.

If you are working with individuals affected by cancer, you can also refer them our 13 11 20 Cancer Information and Support Line.

Remember to manage expectations

The holiday season often amplifies hopes and desires for a miracle or significant improvement in a loved one’s condition. Educating families about the reality of the situation and managing expectations is crucial.

As a healthcare   professional working in Palliative care, you can help families navigate this delicate balance between providing hope and preparing for what lies ahead. Ensure that the focus remains on enhancing quality of life and making the most of the time left.

Look after yourself too

The dedication to the job often springs from a deep sense of purpose and a desire to bring comfort to those in need during this critical time. For some health professionals, this may mean putting their own needs last. It’s important to acknowledge the toll this can take on your wellbeing. Working during the holidays may also mean sacrificing personal time and festivities with your own family.

Remember to look after yourself and maintain a work-life balance, so that you can provide the best care possible. Some ways you can look after your own health and wellbeing include:

  • Eating, sleeping and exercising regularly.
  • Continuing to do activities you enjoy outside of work.
  • Catching-up with your friends and family.
  • Taking a break when you need it.
  • Reaching out to professional counselling services if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

For more information:

  • Visit the PaSCE website which includes free access to education programs, professional development resources and scholarship opportunities for health professionals working in palliative care.
  • Listen to our podcast Keeping up with the PaSCE, where we discuss hospice care and what it means to our West Australian community.
  • Call 13 11 20 for cancer information and support services.