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Finding professional support

A crying manAlthough some people are generally more comfortable these days talking to friends and family about their loss and bereavement, many find talking to a professional counsellor or psychotherapist beneficial.  

  • Some GP surgeries offer a free counselling service, although the number of sessions are usually limited. Ask your GP for information, or about local counselling services in the area.
  • Local counselling services often have charitable status, and offer a ‘pay what you can afford’ policy.
  • Many companies run an Employee Assistance Programme which entitles employees to a set number of free counselling sessions. Ask your manager or Human Resources department for information.
  • To find registered psychotherapists and counsellors in your area, visit the website of the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists or the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy. Costs will vary, and many therapists have their own websites explaining how they work and what to expect from therapy.
  • There are also counselling and support charities, such as Cruse Bereavement Care, that specialise in grief and bereavement.

How you can offer support

Supporting someone with dementia

Dementia or severe cognitive impairment is a growing issue in the elderly. More than 100,000 people die with dementia in England and Wales each year. Research suggests the overall prevalence of dementia in those over the age of 65 is over 7%. The impact of dementia on the dying person can be confusing and alarming for them. It can be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to reach the person, or understand what they are saying or what they may want.

However, many of those with severe dementia suddenly becoming lucid enough to say farewell to those around them, or talk coherently about seeing dead relatives. 

Talking to people with dementia about their end of life wishes can help improve the quality of their care, according to guidance produced by Dying Matters and the National Council for Palliative Care.

'Difficult Conversations' is a publication designed to help professionals and carers of people with dementia to open up conversations about end of life wishes, especially early on in the disease, and to provide support. More than 35 million people worldwide and over 800,000 people in the UK have dementia, but people with the disease often receive unequal access to palliative care – in part because of problems discussing end of life issues with someone once they have dementia.

The guidance, which was developed following conversations with 50 patients, carers and former carers, provides practical advice to carers on a range of issues. It also provides a list of useful resources on issues such as advanced care planning and peer support for carers.

'Difficult Conversations' is available to purchase from the National Council of Palliative Care website priced £5.00, or £2.50 for subscribers. Buy 'Difficult Conversations'

Supporting someone with a learning disability

There are approximately 1.5 million people in the UK who have a learning disability. Between 230,000 – 350,000 people have severe learning disabilities.

Death can be a difficult if not an impossible concept for some people with a learning disability to grasp. It needs careful attention and explanation by carers and family. You can hear people with learning disabilities tell their stories and share their wishes to support other people with learning disabilities by watching Dying Matters' short film, We’re Living Well, But Dying Matters.

Supporting homeless people

Around 40,500 people are in UK hostels at any one time, and over the course of a year approximately 100,000 men and women move in and out of them. This makes end of life care difficult to give. St Mungo's Palliative Care service works in partnership with Marie Curie Cancer Care to provide specialist help. Dying Matters has worked with St Mungo's Palliative Care Project to produce two leaflets, one supporting homeless people, the other those who care for homeless people

Supporting people in prison

Over 86,000 people are presently locked up in prisons, young offender institutions and immigration removal centres. More than 240 people died in prison during 2014. The NHS is working with the prison service to provide high quality end of life care.


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