International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Being “Mindful” of Dignity in Dying: Developing Awareness, Fostering a Psychological Understanding, and Supporting Dignified Endings-To-Life

Pádraig Cotter, D.Psych.Sc.

Psycho-oncology Department: Clinical, Education and Research, St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Centre, St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Natalie Hession, Psych.D.

Psycho-oncology Department: Clinical, Education and Research, St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Centre, St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Nicola Elmer, D.Coun.Psych.

Psycho-oncology Department: Clinical, Education and Research, St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Centre, St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Aifric O’Kane, D.Clin.Psych.

Psycho-oncology Department: Clinical, Education and Research, St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Centre, St. Luke’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

Abstract

Experiencing a sense of dignity when nearing end-of-life has been shown to be very important. There are many things that hospice and palliative nurses can do to support dignified endings-to-life. This paper explores the different aspects of this process from both the perspective of the person dying and in particular the individual in the caring role. Consideration is given to the different components of experiencing dignity in dying, especially those aspects that nursing staff can influence most. The importance of a sense of dignity to people who are dying is explored using two psychological models that provide an intrapersonal and transpersonal perspective. These include the Abandonment of Self Model and the Surface-Depth Model respectively. The types of obstacles to nursing staff providing this type of care and support are reflected upon, with particular emphasis placed on the practitioner’s own personal fears and anxieties and how these may manifest within the patient-nurse relationship. The final section explores the use of mindfulness practises as a way of interacting more fully with people diagnosed with terminal illnesses to support their experience of a dignified ending-to-life. This process is termed “mindful engagement”.

PDF article download available to INPM Regular Members only. Login or Join now