Each patient is different – in terms of how they’d react to a terminal diagnosis. The same goes for families and friends of the person diagnosed.
Manish Srivastava MD, of TriHealth Palliative Care, shares three tips for coping when you learn your loved one is terminally ill.
#1. Don’t Treat Him or Her Differently
“I think that happens a lot, probably unknowingly,” Dr. Srivastava says. “You get that factor of sympathy in there and, then, you take care of them in a different light. You offer them more help and try to provide them with more care than they really need sometimes.”
Instead, ask him or her for permission to help. Don’t make assumptions.
#2. Find out How Your Loved One Wants to Spend His or Her Time
Dr. Srivastava says when one of his patients is diagnosed with a terminal cancer, for example, he wants to know what is most valuable to the patient in the limited time he or she has.
This way, you can find meaningful ways to enjoy each other’s company. Maybe it’s traveling, or maybe he or she wants to create awareness about his or her disease.
On the other hand, if you have unresolved issues with your loved one, it's worth trying to work through those. "A lot of times we see patients who've had some unresolved issues, which makes the dying process much harder," he points out.
#3. Learn How Far He or She Is in the Disease Process and How It Progresses
At TriHealth, our Palliative Care team tries to arrange a family meeting so family members can understand where their loved one is in the disease process. Sometimes, one meeting is enough. Other times, multiple meetings are required. “We know that a majority of the time, patients and their families might retain just a percentage of what we tell them,” Dr. Srivastava explains.
This will allow everyone to be prepared for the changes so they can respond appropriately. If he or she wakes up with a certain symptom, for example, you're less likely to be startled, because it’s something you expected.