Health

A Guide To Terminal Illness And Offering Support

Terminal illness is a complex and tragic process. It’s difficult for everyone, from the person suffering to their friends and family, and even in wider personal and professional circles. If you know someone who has had a terminal diagnosis or someone close to someone who does, this guide will give you some information and advice.

What is a terminal illness?

A terminal illness is when a person’s health condition cannot be cured and is likely to eventually lead to their death. This is more common with illnesses such as advanced cancer, dementia, heart disease, lung disease and motor neurone disease. However, every circumstance is different and it can be one or a series of conditions that make someone terminally ill.

A terminal diagnosis can be extremely upsetting and distressing for the person receiving it, but also for their loved ones. As symptoms of a terminal illness progress, many people have treatment in an attempt to improve and maintain their quality of life for as long as possible. 

Unfortunately, deterioration is inevitable and palliative care often takes over. This is a type of care which tries to calm and support someone through the ‘terminal phase’ and usually takes place at home or in a hospice.

Can terminally ill patients be victims of medical negligence?

Coming to terms with a terminal illness can be devastating for the person, as well as their friends and family. Many people focus on spending time with loved ones, but some seek answers and potential compensation if they’ve been a victim of medical negligence.

In a case where a medical professional has failed to spot a condition before it became terminal or failed to provide the right care before more damage was done, it’s common for people to feel as if their life has been stripped away if another outcome was possible. Compensation can be awarded for medical negligence to give family and friends financial support during the terminal illness phase and after. 

How can you support patients and their family and friends?

It’s hard to imagine the impact a terminal illness can have on a person and the people around them. Support is all you can offer at a time like this and it’s important to note that various charities can help. Whether you’re close to the person suffering, or a friend, neighbour or relative of someone about to lose a loved one, you can do a few things to help:

  • Don’t avoid contact: It can be difficult to know how to reach out to someone who has or is about to suffer bereavement, but this shouldn’t stop you. Let them know you are there for them and available to offer any support you can. They may not be in a place to appreciate that just yet, but it will mean a lot.
  • Give them space if needed: Some people just want space or to be left alone with a loved one in the terminal phase. It’s so important to give this to them if they want. Offer your support and let them know you’re there if they need anything, but don’t cross personal boundaries if uninvited.
  • Talk to a professional: If you’re close to the person suffering, you can support them by supporting yourself. Talking to a counsellor or qualified professional can help to make sense of things and express your emotions openly, so you can be there for your loved one when they need it most.
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