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Exploring Treatment Options When Terminally Ill

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 23 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Terminal Illness Conventional Treatments

With the diagnosis of a serious illness, patients are faced with a number of important decisions, not the least of which is determining how they will go about treating their disease. No matter what they ultimately decide, each person should have the benefit of understanding exactly what options are available to them.

Seeking Professional Advice

Most patients consult their GP or another medical professional in order to learn about the most common treatment options and to get help in determining which are considered most effective. Traditional therapies are likely to be recommended as a first course of action, but many doctors today are also encouraging their patients to include complementary therapies to help manage the stress, anxiety, and pain associated with illness. This trend toward complementary medicine can be quite beneficial to patients, who often find themselves overwhelmed by the dramatic changes in their lives.

Researching Alternatives

Alternative treatments are frequently used to help with symptom management, and some practitioners claim a degree of healing and recovery, from partial to full. Research is vital for patients for a variety of reasons. First of all, not all treatments are risk-free. Dietary supplementation, for example, can be dangerous, especially in high doses. GPs or experienced herbalists may be able to offer advice on the benefits, as well as the risks of adding supplements for the purpose of healing, but any treatments being considered should weigh the risks and benefits. Next, patients may want to check with their insurance companies, because some treatments that were once considered "alternative" are now being accepted by the mainstream, making it more likely that medical insurance will cover part or all of the costs involved. Finally, it's important to find reputable practitioners who have proven track records of success; there are far too many unscrupulous people out there who want nothing more than to drain the pocketbooks of clients. Those who make outlandish claims should be viewed with caution - in all likelihood, treatments that are both safe and highly effective are not going to be secret for long, so those who profess extraordinary recovery statistics may be overstating their successes. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Finding those who Share Your Experience

Even with the loving support of friends and family members, those who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses are bound to feel overwhelmed at times with a host of emotions. In her groundbreaking work about death and dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the five stages of grief. While not all patients handle illness in the same manner or even experience all of the steps, there are commonalities that many share. The stages are: Denial: "This can't be happening."

Anger: "Why me? This is not fair!"

Bargaining: "Please let me live until my children are grown."

Depression: "Why bother with anything - I'm going to die anyway."

Acceptance: "It's going to be alright."

Often, terminal patients can find comfort and even acceptance by partnering with others who are experiencing the same things. Healthy friends and loved ones can offer a caring ear and a willing shoulder, but they cannot fully understand the emotions that the patient experiences. By seeking out people who are struggling with the same feelings, patients can feel free to express their feelings to others who fully understand their situation. Support groups are available in many communities (doctors and other carers may be able to make recommendations), and for those who prefer, online.

Taking Charge

Suffering from serious illness puts a lot of stress on a person; they must learn to come to terms with their own emotions and may feel a responsibility to help the people around them to cope, as well. While the progression of the illness itself may be out of the patient's control, it is important that decisions regarding treatment options, lifestyle changes, and caregivers be made according to the patient's wishes. It's bad enough to think that time is short, let alone feeling that any remaining time will be spent only pleasing others.

NOTE: The information provided above is in no way intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Self-diagnosing and/or choosing to avoid medical care can result in serious health complications. Readers are advised to seek professional medical advice and/or care for all of their health concerns.

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