The importance of maintaining hope is not always readily considered in palliative care. However, all health professionals should be aware of the significance of hope in the context of living with life-limiting illnesses.
The meaning of ‘hope’ needs to be carefully considered and explored in a range of different ways for different people and families.
It is understandable that patients and families may be aware of a poor prognosis and yet still wanting to actively participate in life and in discussions about the future. Sometimes patients will want to talk about that overseas holiday next year and make plans about where they might go and what they might see. They may talk about seeing a longed-for grandchild while aware that they will not be alive to see it.
It is important not to give false hope. That is not to say that hope should be taken away. However if a patient is aware that they are dying, making long-term plans takes on a different meaning. Honest communication allows patients and families to make realistic plans. Clear understandable language is important and should be used consistently throughout the multidisciplinary team. For example, if a patient talks about their wish to attend their son’s wedding you may need to gently explore the need to bring the wedding day forward, if the patient’s prognosis is very poor. Communication skills training for allied health professionals can be helpful.
Hope is a complex concept in end-of-life contexts. People’s hope changes as their journey progresses.
Hope changes from hope about being cured to hope about:
Visit Canadian Virtual Hospice's Hope and Denial webpage
Read the Current Learning in Palliative Care (CLIP) Worksheet Fostering Hope (253kb pdf)
Read End-of-Life Essential's General strategies to facilitate hope and coping (129kb pdf)
Last updated 06 September 2021