The future can be scary. Whether we are in poor health or good health, not knowing what is next can be unsettling. Facing a life-limiting illness adds to these unsettling feelings. Fear and anxiety about the future is exacerbated during such a challenging experience. While these emotions cannot be eliminated, there are coping techniques and strategies that can aid the patient and his or her family in feeling prepared, in control, and comforted.
Hospice care can be incredibly valuable in providing support and encouragement to patients and families when facing a terminal illness. At Remembrance Hospice, we recommend a number of strategies to help alleviate fear, navigate the future, and improve quality of life:
- Share your feelings. Patients with a terminal illness can benefit from honest conversation with friends, family, and/or counselors. Open communication about thoughts, emotions, and concerns can help patients feel less isolated and foster connection.
- Advance care planning. Once a life-limiting prognosis is known, have discussions with your health care provider and family members about advance care. Discuss your options for care including palliative care, hospice care, do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, or other health care wishes.
- Financial and legal planning. Financial and legal matters can be critical in having a patient’s wishes met. Patients should consider creating or updating a will, coordinating a power of attorney, and addressing financials with a trusted advisor. This allows patients to clearly outline their choices while maintaining a sense of control.
- Professional counseling. Patients may find it beneficial to talk with a professional counselor, therapist, or support group. These outlets can provide emotional support and strategies to embrace the future and manage fear and anxiety.
- Spiritual support. If the patient is religious or faithful, encourage religious practice participation. Seek guidance from a chaplain or other spiritual leader. Pursuing spiritual practices can give patients an immense feeling of solace.
- Focus on quality of life. Patients can minimize feelings of stress and fear when they focus on the quality of life versus the quantity. While there may be some limitations, patients should try to pursue activities that bring them joy, fulfillment, and comfort. This will look different for each patient, but could include creating a bucket list, spending time with loved ones, going to favorite places, and pursuing hobbies.