Facing a Life-threatening Illness Quality Life Forum Age-Related Health Challenge Series August, 2017
The shocking news came in - your doctor informed you that a life-threatening diagnosis has been confirmed from your tests.
This just happened to a longtime family friend of mine, who has been healthy and active, but now became a late stage lung cancer patient with metastasis in the brain and bones. As most cancer has no significant symptoms in early stage, it often develops quietly and quickly. It can happen to anyone at any time. It becomes a turning point to change your life forever.
After dealing with the initial shocking and emotional experiences - fear, anger, resentment, denial, helplessness, sadness, and frustration; acceptance will eventually come in confidence to live with the diagnosis and reset life.
A Living will and Will
This is a heavy topic. No one wants to think about end of the life; however, it is wise to thought it out before the unexpected illness strikes. With a peaceful mind at a leisure day, answer a few questions -
1. In case of cancer or other life-threatening/terminal illness, what medical treatment you want or don’t want? Life extension or quality of life means more? Treatments are hopeful or too risky? Pursue unknown% chance of treatment success rate or choose comfort and palliative care is more realistic? These critical decisions are personal. To fully understand each treatment options for its action and side effects, asking questions and reaching out for reliable resources. You have the right to know everything to make your decision, including comfort care, artificial feeding, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
2. Who do you trust to make medical care decisions when you are unable to do so? Consider a person, whom you trust and also with high health literacy, to make care decisions for you as power of attorney when you are not able to make care decisions for yourself. This person should fully understand your wishes and act for your best interests/benefits.
3. What you want others to understand you values and respect your life It is wise to have a living will, to make your wishes clear, well known, and respected. This may take some thoughts. The Five Wishes can be a helpful tool.
A Living Will contains your thoughts and wishes regarding whether you do or do not want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are at a point, due to accident or illness, where the doctor says there is no longer a hope of recovery for you. It is a chance to give your family guidance as they struggle, in a highly emotional situation, to figure out what you would have wanted them to decide for you.
A Will contains your wishes for how you want what you own to be distributed among your family and friends once you pass away. It can also contain instructions for the care and support of your family members, such as naming a guardian for your minor children. It is a road map of instructions that should be prepared in accordance with the laws of the state in which you reside.
Living with life-threatening/terminal illness represents a personal and family crisis. It impacts the patient and his/her family, as family is the primary resource for care and support. Every member of the family is going through the difficult time with their loved one, along with the illness progression.
For different reasons (i.e., religious, cultural, or personal), I have seen some patients/families struggling alone behind the closed doors. These patients/families isolate themselves, refuse to discuss the critical issues, withdraw from friends and community support. With privacy concerns, friends don’t know what to say and hesitant to ask. This makes the situation worse. Sadly, some patients/families break down during the difficult times, as the results of stress and lack of support.
You don’t have to fight alone. Your health coach will be your ally to help you taking control and thrive. Your health coach will be able to assist you through the shock of diagnosis, listen and understand your concerns, dealing with emotional and social issues, teaching coping skills and to be a skilled support, doing research and help set realistic goals/healing plans one step at a time, offer practical remedies for coping with pain and treatment side effects, educate for complication prevention, and finding ways to improve quality of life. I encourage you to reach out for resources available when you need help. Under a health crisis, using the services of health coaching, a patient is benefited with health literacy during the course of treatment, receives personalized support, and lives with higher quality of life than those who simply follow their doctor’s orders.
Some may think follow the doctor’s order is the best patient model. In reality, health care is much more complex than that. In a serious illness situation, you will receive different messages form many doctors. You will need to consolidate medical advises of specialists and figure out what to do. You will need to make decisions to agree on new therapy or request to stop treatment when necessary. You may need help. The best person to help is someone who is unbiased, not emotionally involved, with high health literacy and prioritizes your health as best interest. An independent health coach is ideal for this role. Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org your health coaching needs.
In addition, there are resources for self-help and support, see selected links below, as well as disease specific support groups are also available.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional for personal conditions.
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