QOTD: I Need Help Dealing With a Terminally Ill Relative

Question of The Day-

Learning to Cope With a Terminally Ill Relative

“Terminally ill” is a phrase nobody wants to embrace or welcome when receiving medical news regarding a relative’s health condition. The term summarizes the mixed emotions and future hurt that will follow the expected death of the terminally ill relative. Terminal illnesses like cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, and AIDS often come when least expected, but still require sensitivity and attention.

When the news unfolds, it is important to use the following coping methods:

  • Be there—presence is important
  • Let the patient share their fears—be a good listener
  • Do not act selfish—placing blame on the patient should be avoided

Denial generally occurs before acceptance. Regardless of the length of time predicted for a terminally ill patient, it is impractical for family members not to become frustrated. Also, it is not unusual for the patient or the family to want to speed up the process and wish for the end to come soon. Why not me? Why is this happening to us? How could this have been avoided? Instead of asking “what if” questions, one should ask, “what now” questions. Asking “what now” questions eradicates the feeling of guilt.

There are several methods for eliminating guilt. Rather you chose to maintain a guilt journal or talk to other relatives that will be affected by the future death, find the method that will help you alleviate guilt when dealing with a terminally ill relative.

  1. Relationships usually do not change in times of crisis. This is a good time to build on the strength of your relationship that was already there before the terminal illness came about.
  2. Take the time to listen to the concerns and needs of your terminally ill family member. Let them know that you are there for them and are willing to listen and meet their needs wherever possible.
  3. Learn to live as fully as possible while accommodating the presence of the terminal illness of your family member. It helps for your family member not to feel like a liability by seeing you as whole and able on a daily basis.
  4. Your terminally ill family member may be in denial or fear abandonment. Have them talk to a chaplain, for example, about their fears. They may be more inclined to open up to a stranger than to another family member. It helps to open up and talk about these fears other than having them build up on a daily basis.
  5. Encourage your loved one to talk about his or her life. Reminisce on the past. In a way this helps to lift up their spirits by talking about memorable times. This helps to take their minds off their pain and suffering.
  6. Another effective way is to turn to a higher being depending on one’s religious affiliation.

Please share your thoughts and tips on dealing with terminally ill loved ones.


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