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Dealing With Terminal Illness confronts the seriousness of death and dying, emotional impacts of grief, family care, pain control and comfort care. Find help to face the facts and prepare.

Dealing With Terminal Illness

Terminal illness is so frightening and painful that most who dare read this article are personally preparing for the death of a loved one or themselves.  Logically, one would think it's just the common end of life you see in every living thing, but if you're facing death, you know it isn't an issue for logic.  In this article, we're going to confront death, cover family care, pain control, comfort care and try to prepare as much as possible for terminal illness and death.  Here are some of the top-selling books on dealing with terminal illness.  

Confronting Death And Dying:

We live most of our lives in denial or avoidance of the subject of death.  When forced to confront it with friends and distant loved ones, we find it shocking, unfair, painful, frightening.  Our goal, here, isn't to become more comfortable with death, but to prepare, so our loved ones will have a somewhat easier time in our absence.  Life insurance is one of the ways people prepare financially for death...another is estate planning.  We're not going to cover these issues that have extensive coverage elsewhere.  Instead, when we learn that we or a close loved one is dying, the first things we face are the emotions.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross does an outstanding job covering these emotions in her book On Grief And Grieving.  The basic categories of emotion are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  Whether you're facing your own death or the death of a loved one, prepare to confront serious emotional upheaval.  These emotions are often vented on those closest to us, making it even more difficult for family.

Caring For Family:

Each person expresses the emotions of grief differently, so caring for family requires a great deal of patience and flexibility.  Often with terminal illness, you're faced with deteriorating ability to care for yourself, requiring someone to provide assistance for activities of daily life, from dressing, to eating, to personal hygiene, etc.  Often, having a family member do these things is less expensive, financially, but limits the the amount of time left to really be together, sharing and communicating what's important.  Time is the most valuable thing right now.  Consider the amount of time these close family members have and determine whether that time would be better spent cleaning, shopping and cooking or talking and hugging...even watching a movie together.  I have a friend who insists on personally providing routine care for a close loved one, but the stress of performing those duties has caused my friend to resent and treat harshly the very person he's caring for.  Sometimes caring for a family member is easier and less painful if someone else is changing the bed pan.

Controlling Pain:

With most terminal illnesses, physical pain must be managed with very strong narcotics, especially at the end stage.  My brother died from pancreas cancer in the hospital, with most of us sitting by his side.  It was difficult watching him suffer unnecessarily while the nurses followed prescription guidelines to the letter.  I will never propose anyone use pain medications to commit suicide, but I strongly recommend you make arrangements for a loving family member to administer pain medication instead of a licensed professional, who's primary interest is protecting their license and malpractice premiums.  These medicines need to be administered to head off pain, because once you get behind, it takes a too much medicine to catch up.  You can talk to your doctor to get dosage recommendations with enough flexibility to cover different sensitivities to pain.  Learning from my brother's situation, I did this with my mother when she was dying from osteoporosis and emphysema.  Near as I could tell, the process was very painless for her.  The best way to be allowed to administer a loved one's pain medication is have the doctor place them in hospice status and care for their final days in home or through a licensed hospice facility.

Comfort Care-Hospice:

The whole idea behind hospice care is to provide comfort to the person who is dying.  At the end stage of most incurable diseases, there are no ambulances or resuscitation efforts. To go to extreme measures to bring someone back if their heart stops is really unnecessary torture.  The goal of hospice care is to provide for basic physical needs, pain relief and other comfort measures to minimize the suffering of your loved one.  What is specifically required differs from illness to illness.  A good hospice is usually equipped with everything that's needed including trained people and grief counselors.  Make sure you pick one that can provide room for family and friends to say goodbye...even separate rooms for people to get a break from the emotions of the moment.

Dealing with terminal illness wouldn't be complete without some discussion about the other side of death.  Now, when there are no other distractions or worries, is a perfect time to get acquainted or reacquainted with your Creator.  In my opinion, dying isn't the end of life, but a transition to a new, spiritual life and a reunion with past loved ones.  If you'd like to have it, this life is yours just by asking.  This doesn't have to be the can be a new beginning for you and your loved ones.

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