Receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness for yourself or a loved one can be life changing. People of all ages can be diagnosed with terminal illness, and dealing with it is hard for everyone, the person, their family, their friends. I have supported a number of families facing difficult circumstances around terminal illness and would like to share the suggestions I make to those trying to come to terms with it.
In general, a terminal illness is an illness that cuts short a person's lifespan. The time between diagnosis and death is usually short, and there is no cure for the illness. The physical experiences of terminally ill patients vary depending on their diagnosis. Some people have a swift and painless end of life period; others have challenging complications. But with proper care, most challenges can be managed to preserve a patient's quality of life.
In many cases, a diagnosis of a terminal illness comes as a shock. Emotional and mental stress along with the physical manifestations of the condition make it even harder to cope with the situation. Not to mention possible financial stress and the many other repercussions one can experience as a direct impact of the diagnosis. Here's what I ask my clients to do when they come to me after being diagnosed with a terminal illness:
Research your condition as much or as little as you want
Connect with a local support group, preferably of people facing similar circumstances, so you can support and learn from each other's experience
Get a second opinion from a specialist
Ask your health care provider for answers to direct questions like your prognosis, treatment options and access to resources
Always try to bring a support person with you to your doctors appointments. Two sets of tongues, eyes and ears are better than one! Often times you receive a lot of information during a short appointment and it's hard to remember everything the doctor said. Having a support person helps gather and retain information.
If your condition is expected to deteriorate and leave you dependant on another person for your activities of daily living like toileting and eating meals, then consider looking into possible home care options like personal support workers. It might also be worth asking close friends and family for help with certain chores around the house
Explore all possible care environments. Some of them are home care, assisted living, palliative care, hospice care
Try to put your affairs in order and draw up an Advance Care Plan
Some people are also open to MAID - Medical Assistance In Dying
Consider organ and tissue donation if your doctor thinks your organs are viable
We know how challenging living with a terminal illness can be. At in4MED, we can make this stressful time easier by connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Stay tuned for more on terminal illness in the coming months. This is the first of three blogs on the topic.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.