Veteran Health Indiana
Palliative Care Information
Living with a life-limiting illness:
Receiving a life-limiting or terminal illness diagnosis is a difficult process. When time is limited, it can be a reminder to readjust priorities and can make time feel more valuable. Facing death may create opportunities and "permission" to spend time doing things that are truly important to you.
Our fondest memories are often of friends and family members. Reviewing photos of favorite memories and people may be important to you right now. It may be important to create a record of memories for loved ones to use in the future. For example, you might consider making a tape or recording of your voice for loved ones. Tapes can be made for assorted friends and family members, with short or long messages for each recipient. Videos are another way to leave a memory. You may wish to leave messages for your children, grandchildren, spouse, or close friends. Another option is to write personalized letters to loved ones, sharing memories, advice, kind words, or how you feel about them.
Families and caregivers living with a loved one's life-limiting illness.When you take care of a dying or very ill loved one, you may experience a range
of emotions such as grief, sadness, or fear. These feelings may appear at different
times. For example, when you first learn about your loved one's serious illness,
or when you think about adjusting future plans.
Coping strategies for families and caregivers
Make time to feel the feelings. The process of adjusting to a life-limiting illness is full of ups and downs. Try to be patient with yourself. It may be hard to take care of your responsibilities at times, (for example work, parenting). Try not to spread yourself too thin. For example, if your loved one is staying in the palliative care unit, and you would like to visit him/her daily, consider that it may be better to have fewer quality visits rather than travelling so often that you end up feeling stressed and frazzled.
Take time to do things you enjoy. It is also important to try to keep your normal routines. Your life may feel turned upside down but try to keep daily routines. Try to eat healthily, engage in physical activity, and get regular sleep.
Let family and friends know how they can help. It can be as simple as running errands when you are busy with caregiving duties, walking your dog, bringing you food, or lending a supportive ear. Accept these forms of help whenever you can. Many people find it helpful to attend a support group of people who are going through the same process.
Books that may be useful:
Feldman, D.B., & Lasher, S.A. The End-of-Life Handbook: A Compassionate
Guide to Connecting with and Caring for a Dying Loved One. New Harbinger
Lynn, J., and Harrold, J. Handbook for mortals: Guidance for people facing
serious illness. Oxford University Press, 2006. See also http://www.growthhouse.org/mortals/mor0.html