What Do You Do When Diagnosed with a Terminal Illness?

patient bedridden

If you are given a terminal diagnosis, it can be challenging to know what to do. You may feel like you are in a state of shock or disbelief. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Many people will support you through this difficult time.

1. Get Emotional Support

One of the first things you can do is reach out for emotional support. You do not need to suffer in silence. You can:

  • Talk to your family and friends: Share your feelings with those who care most about you. You can allow yourself to feel safe and comfortable with those closest to you. They may not know the right thing to say, but it does not matter as they are there for you.
  • Speak to a counselor: Some people have experience dealing with a terminal illness, and talking to a professional may help you come to terms with what you are going through. You can speak to someone who knows how it feels like to be in your position, which can be helpful.
  • Join a support group: There is nothing wrong with accepting that you need emotional support at this time. Interacting with others who have the same condition can be very illuminating. They will not judge you, and this is where you can find comfort in feeling like you are not alone even though you may feel isolated at times.

2. Consider Hospice and Palliative Care

If you find it difficult to cope with your diagnosis, palliative and hospice care may be options for you. Hospice care is for the terminally ill and focuses on providing comfort and support. Palliative care is similar, but it can be received at any stage of an illness – not just when a person is terminal.

The difference is in the approach. Hospice care is generally more intensive, including home visits or hospital stays. Your family doctor can refer you to a nurse who will work with you on a plan for your condition. They will discuss what to expect at different stages and pain management for those suffering from an illness.

On the other hand, Palliative care can be received in a variety of places such as a hospital, nursing home, or even at home. It is not as intensive as hospice care but still supports those who need it.

3. Plan Your End-of-Life Directive

An end-of-life directive is a legal document that states what you would like to happen after your death. It should include information on organ donations and any specific details regarding funeral plans or other arrangements.

You need to make sure it is up-to-date and reflects your current wishes. You should update it if there are any changes in your health or if you would like someone else to be responsible for making decisions on your behalf after you are gone.

4. Settle Your Affairs

It is essential to have everything in order when you are terminally ill. Take some time to go through your financial records and any legal papers you may need. Consider the following:

  • If you have a business, pick your successor now or create an exit strategy.
  • If you own property, make sure that those you leave behind can take care of it.
  • Identify any personal items that need to be passed on. Who should get what?
  • Make a list of your documents and important information: bank accounts, insurance policies, loans, credit cards, deeds, Social Security numbers, passwords, and so on.
  • Discuss any final wishes with your family or close friends, such as whether you want to be buried or cremated. If possible, decide on a specific place for your ashes to be kept.
  • Know who will look after your children if they are still minors and you don’t have a spouse and pets.

Meanwhile, organizing your medical information can be a daunting task, but it will save time for those treating you in the event of an emergency. Make sure that anyone caring for you knows what doctor to contact and where relevant documents are kept, such as:

  • Your doctors’ names and phone numbers.
  • Your insurance information.
  • Names, phone numbers, and medical conditions of your caregivers.
  • The name and number of your primary care physician if you are not at home when you are ill.
  • A list of all the medications that you are currently taking

5. Decide What You Want to Do in Your Remaining Time

This is a difficult question for many people, but it is crucial to think about. Do you want to travel? Spend time with your family and friends? Write your memoirs?

Start making a list of things you’d like to do and then make a plan to achieve them. It’s okay if you don’t accomplish everything on the list, but it can be a helpful guide to the most of your time.

Terminal illness can be a frightening experience, but you don’t need to face it alone. Many resources are available to you, including support groups, hospice and palliative care, and an end-of-life directive.

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