Psychological care: The ally of the caregiver and their loved one in palliative care

25 April 2019

Psychological care: The ally of the caregiver and their loved one in palliative care

Hospice Palliative Care Week 2019 will be held from May 5 to 11. In this context, we met Jean-Marc Duru, palliative care psychologist. Through the narrative of his almost daily actions, he presents his work to us.

25 April 2019

Palliative care helps relieve the physical and psychological pain of a person with a critical or progressive illness. The psychologist plays an important role in the lives of patients in palliative care and their caregivers. He helps them experience this stage more serenely, by encouraging them to redefine and strengthen their relationships. That is the aim of Jean-Marc Duru when he provides psychological care. 

The contribution of the palliative care psychologist in a medical team

Palliative care helps relieve the physical and psychological pain of people with a critical, progressive or terminal illness. This is why psychologists are often part of the care team, just like the doctors and nurses, to name but two examples. For more information on palliative care, you will find a more in-depth article in our Practical Tips section.

It is in this framework that Jean-Marc Duru meets with the person receiving care and their loved ones – especially the caregiver – to guide them in confidence in the care delivered.

Mr. Duru explores the life lived and notable life experiences. This way, he ensures that the relationship he establishes with the patient and their caregiver has meaning in their lives that is not solely defined by the illness.

Care based on acceptance and accomplishment

Jean-Marc Duru guides you in the expression of your difficulties, your helplessness, by offering neutral space to talk about this stage, beyond the care and the urgency. He articulates the psychological care around two values: acceptance of the situation and satisfaction in your actions (accomplishment).

In palliative care especially, the issue of grieving may emerge: that of the special relationship between you and your loved one and that of the loss. In this delicate context, the work is thus to help you accept the situation, so that you can cope with it better. He also strives to find some meaning in what the patient is experiencing and to help them manage a condition with which they are not familiar.

Mr. Duru also guides people toward a form of “letting go”, which they accomplish through positive actions. Without clinging to the past or familiar reflexes, the patient and their loved one are encouraged to build a continuation of their relationship beyond care, based on mutual dialogue and compassion. Mr. Duru encourages patients to define themselves by abilities, not just by symptoms.

The importance of offering emotional support

Mr. Duru is aware that addressing palliative care in a discussion group is difficult. Your journey as a caregiver and that of your loved one is unique. However, in a group, the experiences are different. That said, you might find talking about your situation comforting and it may help you manage your stress and fatigue better.

For Jean-Marc Duru, the important thing is that you and your loved one feel heard and understood. The aspect of spirituality is important to guide you in this care. It is even necessary to anticipate a psychological or spiritual distress that might occur.

Do not hesitate to ask the psychologist questions. Their answers will be able to help you receive the psychological care and emotional support you might need more effectively.


Jean-Marc Duru, palliative care psychologist, has been practising his profession for nine years. Support, care, advice and training are all services he provides to caregivers with respect for their personality and their culture. He practises at the Palliative Home-Care Society of Greater Montreal and at the Clinique de psychologie Villeray-Petite-Patrie psychology clinic.


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