Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

The End of Life: Death and Dying

What contributes to a “good death”?

A number of studies have examined the factors that influence the quality of the dying process-the factors that contribute to a “good death.” All studies suggest there are multiple components involved. Probably first and foremost is the issue of physical pain and discomfort. For both dying patients and their families, it is critically important that the last days are physically comfortable. In response, the medical discipline of palliative care has arisen to address the comfort of the terminally ill.

Other domains include the social, psychological, and spiritual realms of experience, as well as the degree of preparation for death. Social factors pertain to the involvement, support, and cohesion of (or, conversely, conflict between) family members. Psychological factors include a sense of closure regarding life as lived and the awareness and acceptance of death. Ideally, the person will feel relatively at peace at the time of death. Spiritual needs are particularly acute at this time and religious beliefs about life after death or the connection of the individual to the larger whole can be profoundly comforting. Preparation for death also includes planning in advance for the medical, legal, and financial issues that are likely to follow.


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