Everyone dies. But few of us are comfortable talking about it, especially when it involves ourselves or a loved one – and especially when it becomes real, and imminent, following a terminal diagnosis.
Death is feared by many people, and the news of a terminal illness can feel like a huge burden to lay on someone else. If you have been given a terminal diagnosis, know that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to discuss it with your loved ones. They will need to know and, even if you fear their reaction, it is better for the news to come from you or from someone else you trust. In many cases, loved ones already suspect something is wrong, and may fear the worst. Bringing it out in the open removes the mystery and can help them to confront their fears in a healthy way. Hospice can help you through this, from the earliest stages of a terminal diagnosis.
Of course, if you’re dying, you have your own fears to confront. There’s no shame in telling your loved ones if you’re afraid. Give them an opportunity to be there for you and to comfort you. Doing so can give them a sense of purpose, and a way to cope with the anxiety they feel.
Your loved ones will react to your terminal diagnosis in unpredictable ways. Some will want to “fix” it; others will want to counsel you. Some will withdraw, some will be unsure of what to do, and others will stand ready to assist in any way they can. Allow them their reactions, and don’t feel guilty about setting your own boundaries.
Discussing your wishes for end-of-life care is among the highest priorities. Terminally ill patients may be unable to communicate their wishes after reaching later stages of illness. Hospice can help you understand care options to consider, depending on the type and severity of the illness. Hospice can also help you find ways of discussing your wishes, and can help your loved ones understand them fully.
You may feel overwhelmed with “unfinished business” – the details of your estate, unpaid bills, family crises and other matters that seem beyond your control in light of a terminal diagnosis. Alleviating this burden and resolving your concerns is what Hospice can do best. In collaboration with your loved ones, Hospice can help to ensure your wishes are carried out, accounts are closed properly, bills are paid, notifications are sent, questions are answered, and family will not be left with unexpected problems.
A terminal diagnosis takes away our sense of control. That’s why it is so important to exercise your control while you can, by expressing your end-of-life wishes. The conversations may be difficult now, but they will bring you considerable comfort later, when you can know that your wishes are being carried out.
Whether it’s you or a loved one facing terminal illness, consider bringing Hospice on board right away – even before direct care is needed.