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Is Coaching in Palliative Care Necessary?

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By Dr Jesrina from Taylor’s University and Dr Liew Kean Yew

Globally, the need for palliative care is on an upward trend due to the ageing population and the rising burden of chronic diseases. In Malaysia, the proportion of palliative care needs to deaths hovered at 71 percent in the observed years. By 2030, it is observed that the growth for palliative care specifically will increase to 240 percent. Sarawak, Perak, Johor, Selangor, and Kedah will become the top five Malaysian states with the highest needs in 2030.[1]

Palliative care is specialised medical care for people living with serious illnesses. Palliative care services were first offered in Malaysia in 1995, and they are gradually being included in the standard healthcare system.

The past twenty years have seen a lot of emphasis focused on coaching, internationally. Coaching in palliative care refers to the practice of providing support, guidance, and education to individuals facing terminal or life-threatening illnesses, as well as their families and caregivers. While it aims to improve quality of life by early detection and treatment of pain and symptoms, it enables patients and their families to take an active role in choosing how they will be treated, reclaiming a sense of control over their lives.

Palliative care is intended to improve the quality of life for patients and their families associated with life-threatening illnesses. And, as palliative care necessitates interactive and interpersonal processes between patients, relatives, and healthcare professionals, coaching then helps individuals develop their communication skills and express their needs, preferences, and concerns more effectively – which leads to increased satisfaction in care outcomes.

Coaching in palliative care is also known as the practice of health education and health promotion to enhance individuals’ wellbeing. Through a coping mechanism, palliative care coaching assists patients and their families through goal setting, problem-solving, and symptom management.

Additionally, coaching supports individuals in making informed decisions as it is pertinent to note that making decisions about treatment options, advance care planning, and end-of-life care is rather challenging when undergoing treatments. Through the provision of information, the clarification of options, and assistance in weighing the advantages and disadvantages of various possibilities becomes easier for patients to advocate for their rights and choices.

In addition, in delivering patients with tailored treatment that fits their specific disease stage, coaches can deliver patient-centred care that respects people’s cultural backgrounds, attitudes, and beliefs. Palliative care coaching helps patients, families, and healthcare professionals coordinate and collaborate, which promotes continuity of treatment to achieve shared objectives.

Anthony Grant, a revered psychologist, informs that coaching can be considered an emerging cross-disciplinary occupation, with the main goals being to improve performance, enhance well-being, and support organisational and individual change. Palliative care coaching adopts a comprehensive strategy, acknowledging that every person’s experience with illness is distinct and multifaceted. Further to treating physical symptoms, coaches often address emotional, social, and spiritual issues.

Coaching is essential in palliative care as it is important to remember that the end of life deserves as much beauty, care, and respect as the beginning.

Dr Jesrina Ann Xavier is a member of the Active Ageing Impact Lab at Taylor’s University, and Dr Liew Kean Yew is a Palliative Care specialist at Hospital Ampang.


[1] https://spcare.bmj.com/content/12/e1/e129

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