The term terminal illness means disease that is not curable and is expected to result in death of the patient over a course of time. It is a commonly used term for illnesses like cancer, heart disease of advanced stage, to name a few. When a person is said to be suffering from a terminal illness, there is near certainty that the patient is going to die in a course of time irrespective of the treatment. Once diagnosed with a terminal condition the patient knows that death is certain and the doctor informs the patient about the time left, in days, weeks, months or years.
Once a patient is diagnosed for terminal illness, the disease management process is decided. The options for it include continual of treatment, caregiving, hospice care and even physician assisted suicide. The decision making is done keeping the patient as well as the family in loop. Many a time patients with terminal illness experience anxiety around the nearing death as well as depression and hence requires psychotherapeutic treatment to help them deal with the same.
On the flip side, knowing about the terminal illness condition gives them time to get ready for advance treatment and care procedures as well as living will, to help them deal with end of life care effectively. Let us run through the different disease management or end of life care procedures for terminal illness patients.
Palliative Care – Palliative care is more about after care of the physical needs of the patients post diagnosis. This includes emotional support, management of pain, psychological and spiritual care. It is a methodology that concentrates on improvement of quality of life of the patients and satisfaction besides helping family members deal and cope with the difficult situation.
Care Giving – Care giving is an integral part of terminal disease management. It involves keeping a nurse to take care of the person suffering from the condition. The care givers provide support like psychological support, food, assistance with movement and routine activities on a day to day basis.
Medications – Terminal patients who suffer from cancer related pain, need medications for relief. The medication prescribed varies based on the pain severity as well as status of disease. One of the common symptoms that terminal illness patients experience is dyspnea viz. breathing issues.
Hospice Care – There is a misconception that people choosing hospice care live less compared to others, but study has proved that patients with hospice care live for the same span than others. It includes spending more time with family, friends or other inmates undertaking hospice disease management procedures. They usually stay away from a hospital at home or at an inpatient hospice facility.
Physician assisted Suicide (PAS) – This concept is legally approved only in a few countries in the world. It is when a patient decides to die with dignity that he or she opts for physician assisted suicide. The decision could be based on various different reasons like avoiding pain, disability, healthcare costs, family impact, personal and religious beliefs, to name a few. The patient has to give request in writing as well as orally after which the physicians offer them lethal drugs to help them die.
Well, some terminally ill patients stop all the treatments that they are undergoing to avoid side-affects while some go for even more aggressive treatment in a hope to increase their life span to the maximum. Some also opt for alternative methods of treatment that are non-proven as well as diet changes that are required.