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Dealing with the terminal illness of a loved one

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Let's say you have a loved one who is terminally ill. It's someone very close, could be your brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, mother, father, wife or your husband. How would you deal with the fact that the loved one is fading away and there isn't much you can do about it? Everyday you see the symptoms of the sickness they are suffering from and the side effects of the medication they are taking. Any methods of enlightening the situation and making it more bearable?

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Sorry to read this topic. Here's my 2cents.

 

Remember to be grateful for the good times you have had with said relative, do your best to say whatever it is you feel necessary, and help make their remaining days easier, as appropriate for the person and possible for you. Understand their illness and be prepared for the sideeffects of the medications. Maybe theres something you could do/buy to ease the symptoms, maybe not, but at least worth discussing with their doctor.

 

Also try not to do the typical grief lashing out routine: avoid starting, getting goaded into, or joining petty fights with equally overstressed relatives. That never helps anyone, especially if the relative is at home. Easier said than done though.

 

Join a support group - google can direct you to an unlimited number of them online - even if you're not the joining/sharing sort than lurk around so you know you're not alone. If you can afford it, seek professional help if you just cant get through your days.

 

Also on a more practical note, make practical arrangements for what happens after they pass on, who needs to be contacted, who will do what, will there be a funeral and where etc. Also make mental arrangements for yourself. If you have a certain suit and shoes you'd like to wear get them cleaned and polished. Make a packing and logistics list if they live far away. Seems a bit callous but mentally it can help you feel like you've got some control and can help you switch to auto pilot when the time comes.

 

HTH, good luck to you.

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Funny you should ask. Just last year in February I traveled to California to say goodbye to my father. He had been diagnosed with brain tumors in January and had a life expectancy of up to six months.

The way you deal with the loved one's illness depends a lot on how said loved one deals with it him/herself. We were lucky insofar as my Dad had decided against an operation and chemotherapy after the first signs of recurring cancer were found in September 2005, we knew that his time was limited and could prepare for his rapid decline and death.

So my Ma, from whom he had been divorced in 1963, my sister and her wife spent as much time as possible with Dad and his wife Emily, my sister doing the heavy work, my sister-in-law supplying him with pot against the pain and nausea, my Ma cooking his favorite food (home-made fudge and forget the diabetes diet!) and Emily devoting herself to him. I could only spend one day with him when I was in Californa but that day was very important to both of us. No words were minced, we knew it was our last day together. And even then I had to leave the house when he hit his pipe - pot makes me sick. He made dealing with his dying easy for us, he didn't need cheering up or false hopes fostered.

I advise being very honest with your dying loved one, spend as much time as possible (or as much as you can bear) with him/her, face what is going to happen but don't lament about it in his/her presence. Speak about what measures are to be taken, such as a hospice (where Dad spent his last two weeks), even discuss a living will and a Do Not Resuscitate order. And stick together as a family.

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Been through this too often and i advise reading sara's post, just about right i reckon.

 

Share whatever time is left with lots of love and no recriminations but do sort out anything you will whip yourself later for if you never say it.

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Yes, read Sara's post.

 

How I wish that my experiences had been similar. Have been through it twice now, and from that limited experience I can say that dying and grieving is unique, it's individual, the relationship between the person dying and the one having to watch this is unique.

 

How somebody wants to go is entirely their decision, no good trying to impose your idea of dying in style on them. They might not cherish your attention or your grief. Offer whatever you have to offer emotionally or in terms of hands on support or even money, but don't be frustrated when your offers are turned down. That's what I learned anyway. Not an easy lesson.

 

Support groups are good, I guess. Unless there already is a good network of people who care about the dying friend and can support each other.

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What Sarabyrd said. I flew home last July for 2 weeks because my uncle (my only real uncle) who had been battling cancer for the past 5 years, was given only 4-6 weeks. During those two weeks we had an amaying time - talked about all kinds of things. I'm still not sure if he really thought the end was so close but he joked that he definitely "wanted his own cloud to sit on".

Yes, it was hard, but, when it was finally over (one week after I got back to Germany, he died), it was a relief that he was finally free of his pain.

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I can't adding anything that's already been said from an emotional/sentimental point of view, and I don't want to be cynical, but make sure that the estate is taken care of before it's too late. Trust me, these are things which can cause even the closest families to disintegrate in the aftermath...

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Be strong for them. While especially true for older people, it can apply to younger as well; when people are dying, it's no longer themselves they are concerned about. It's the people they leave behind that they worry for. Can you make it without them? If you can be strong for them and let them know that you love them with all your heart but that you will be fine in the end, that is a comfort to them. The trick is, making sure you don't make them feel un-needed. It's a delicate balance but in the end, all you can do is be there for the. Nature will handle the rest.

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All I can say to anyone is not to be in denial like I was when my father died. I was in disbelief that someone who had been a tower of strength in my life could be going. I cannot add anything to the excellent advice here except make sure they have enough pain killers and never let someone die alone even if they are unconscious they can still hear and keep there lips wet with water as they dehydrate severely. If you are losing someone dear to you then I am deeply sorry to hear this.

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What Sara said is right. I have a Step Mother who's been dying for the last five years from bone cancer. Hell, she's more alive and happy and shines a love of all in God's world that you can' be anything but happy for her. My Step-Father-in-Law went out as grumpy as sin itself, bitter, unhappy and sad - being around him hurt.

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It’s hard not to be in denial though. My dad was always the super-duper dad, not because he was particularly cool, but he was a very strong man. He never worked out in a gym or anything, but he is largely built (genetics), and he worked outdoors a lot (he is a Forest Engineer and a professor at the University in our town). He always had a pretty healthy life style, especially since he spent most of his time surrounded by trees. He lives with my mum and my brother in Brazil, and unfortunately I dont see them as often as I would like to. Dad was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 2004, at the age of 54. They couldnt operate him, and he has been going through some sort of treatment and therapy ever since. Last month I found out he also has bone cancer (I dont think I was supposed to know about it, but one of my aunts mentioned it to me, probably assuming I knew about it). He is slowly getting worse and worse...I asked mum whether the docs had given an estimate time, or anything, but her answer was „I told him (dad) that I want at least another 10 years“.

I am flying home in 4 weeks, and I will be staying 2 months. I need to spend some time with him, and give my mum a hand. She is still working full-time (she is a doc) plus taking care of him. I am looking forward to it, but at the same time, I am dreading it. Not sure whether I am going to go home to a funeral, or whether he will have picked up by then. He is in a lot of pain at the moment, and I guess it is driving him insane that he depends on people to do everything. Last time I spoke to him on the phone, he said „Ich bin am Ende, es kann so nicht weiter gehen.“

The best way I found to deal with it is to talk about it. Not to my parents though, because dealing with it at first means I cry „a bit“(ahem), but talking to someone else somehow makes me feel stronger. For those who are dealing with someone in the same situation(ie losing someone), the best thing to do is to listen, and offer a shoulder. I dont think there is anything anyone could say that could make things better (unless it has the words „cured“ and „healthy again“ in the middle), and all what you want is a shoulder and a big hug...and a pair of ears to listen to your feelings.

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@ tuca: The best advice I can give you is to do things for him before he asks. Anticipate what he might want or need and do it without words so he does not feel quite so helpless.

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Many thanks to everyone who posted their advice, their stories, and their encouraging words on here. I hope you'll all have the strength and the support that you need when the time comes. As for me, I hope the same.

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I've been in this situation several times recently and in the depth of my grief and despair after losing three members of my family is I had to pray I could go on and discover the richest possible meaning to the new life I have without these people in it. Grief and bereavement can force cause you to look at your life differently. Also more than ever now I'm careful about letting each person I love know just how I feel about them.

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My husbands mother was diagnosed with terminal Pancreas cancer last June and given 6 months. This came as a complete shock as she has always been well and lively. Now over a year down the line she is still here. Very, very thin, tired but still alert and going out on short visits.

 

My problem is our kids. We have had a few scares when she was hospitalised and we thought she was going to go. We told the kids Granny was sick and the docs were trying to help her but sometimes it doesn't always work. We thought we were doing the right thing telling them little snippets as it happened so when she dies it wouldn't be so shocking. (They are all under 7years old). Now when we visit the Mother in law she tells the kids she is all better now and she's fine. I know she doesn't want the kids to worry but it is confusing for them. What should we tell them?

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sorry to hear that.

 

its a tough one ... how young are they? Close to 7, 5, 3ish?

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You have to tell them that granny is very sick.. and one day she will pass away.. Younger kids have a habbit of coping, they may ask questions that you may not want to answer, just be prepared..

 

As for granny saying she "is fine"... tell them thats Grannys way of saying " dont worry, she is getting all the medicine she can!"

 

This will probably be harder for you to do, than it will be for them to accept..

 

You have to be strong when telling them.

 

  • Explain what happened in a way they can understand. Children know when you are hiding something, so be open and honest.
  • Encourage communication. Listen and accept their feelings no matter how difficult it may be.
  • Answer their questions in brief and simple terms. Telling them they are too young to understand only avoids dealing with the problem and may be even more upsetting for them. It is okay to not have all the answers.
  • Reassure them that they will still be loved and taken care of.
  • Show affection, support, and consistency. Let them know that you will be there to help as much as possible.
  • Share your feelings in terms they will understand and in a way that won't be overwhelming. For example, it is okay to let them know that you hurt too. If you try to hide your feelings, they may think they shouldn’t share theirs.

 

Good luck.

 

G

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I am in a vaguely similar situation, but my 84-year-old mother is suffering from advanced senile dementia and Alzeimer's and barely recognises or understands us, so it's just about impossible to communicate to her how much we all love her. My sincerest best wishes are with you, LIAB.

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g24, the best you can do is tell the kids that Granny is feeling fine now because the doctors could treat the illness but eventually she will die. Not within the next few days but after she stops feeling fine any more. Children appreciate honesty.

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My mum died from cancer 5 years ago aged only 52. I tried denial, i.e. I kept telling myself she will be fine again although she kept telling me otherwise. Not something I'd recommend doing though. But it's so hard, becasue you just live in some sort of numb daze mixed with all kinds of emotions.

 

And no matter how long your relative lives after falling ill, it's never long enough.

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