Working Could Help Terminally Ill – Expert
31 August 2015 at 11:56 am
Health professionals who encourage people with a life-limiting illness not to return to work may be causing their patients more harm than good, according to a UK expert.
Dr Gail Eva from Brunel University in London said work has many psychological and social benefits that can have a significant impact on the sense of well being of a patient, so it is important not to automatically encourage them to resign or take time off.
Dr Eva said there are dangers in making assumptions about the role work plays in terminally ill patients’ lives, rather than giving patients scope to think their options through.
“Health professionals think they are being kind and supportive when they encourage people to opt out of work, but some work environments may have a very positive impact on patients’ mental and physical health,” Dr Eva said.
“Work can give people a sense of competence and status and it plays an important role in giving structure to our day. You can replace work with internally driven and motivated activities, but it is much harder for people to sustain this.”
But Dr Eva, who is a keynote speaker at the upcoming Australian Palliative Care Conference in Melbourne, said it was simplistic to presume all work was good for people with a terminal diagnosis.
“We can all think of work environments that are really bad for our physical and mental health, and for some patients, withdrawing from work might be the right thing,” she said.
Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan said palliative care aimed to help people live as well as possible at the end of life.
“If continuing in the workforce is important to a patient’s sense of fulfilment and enjoyment of life, then support is available to help them achieve that,” Callaghan said.
Dr Eva, a senior lecturer in the department of clinical sciences, encouraged health professionals to be mindful of their own perceptions of work, as these could shape assumptions they make about patients.
The Australian Palliative Care Conference will be held from 1 to 4 September this year.