The news have been broken and the shock dissipated; and you’re all coming into terms with the reality that your loved one has a limited time to live. It is time to prepare for the eventuality. Living in denial is no good. Here are some tips to make life easier for you as well as the patient:
You need to get together as a family and go over the details of the medical report, and discuss what you can expect in the coming days. Involve the family doctor. You can leave the patient out at this stage, especially if the medical report is largely negative. You can inform him/her later in a relaxed manner.
A terminal illness in the family leaves you exhausted financially, emotionally and physically. Spread out the burden. How much is the anticipated medical bill? How much can the insurance handle? If there’s a balance, share it among the family members and commit to pay in installments. Appoint a caregiver amongst yourselves. Alternatively you can hire a qualified one. Come up with a schedule and determine who will attend to various tasks such as shopping for groceries, cleaning the house, cooking, taking the patient for doctor’s visits and so on.
Put it in Writing
Consult the patient on various fundamental matters like the appointment of a healthcare agent who will make medical decisions if he/she is not in a position to do so. Most will pick a family member, some their best friends or acquaintances. Some will even include certain details, such as the ‘do-not-resuscitate’ order should the heart/breathing stop. They want to be left to go in peace. Others simply state the doctor’s recommendations should be followed. Matters of property allocation should also be clearly put down in writing and signed by a lawyer. Your loved one will be at peace knowing that the dependants will not be wrangling over property once they’re gone.
The idea of hospice is frowned upon by most who don’t really understand it. They see it as a sign of giving up on their kin. Far from it. Hospice facilities provide medical, psychological and spiritual support to those in the final stages of illness. How do you bring up the topic without making the patient feel like a burden that you want to offload? Well, start by discussing it among yourselves and agree on the basics. Research on the hospice facilities around and visit to see what they offer. Approach the topic rationally making the patient understand that you’ll still be available.
Most people get into hospice and wish they got there sooner. They finally have company of people going through similar health challenges, and in sharing their experiences they find solace. Your loved one may have months to live, maybe years. Even with the challenges, don’t forget to enjoy the final moments that you have together. Every single day could be the last; take the opportunity to make it count.