What is terminal illness and end-of-life care?

Terminal illnesses are diseases and/or conditions that shorten a person’s life expentancy significantly.  Some familiar examples include:

  • Some cancers
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

At other times, certain symptoms and circumstances can indicate that a person is nearing the end of life.  This may occur with:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • End stage renal disease
  • Stroke
  • Normal aging

In all of these cases, individuals must confront the end of life and what that means.  This is a potentially scary and overwhelming time and a person often feels anger, grief, sadness and loss.

Many complicated feelings may arise.  There may be a sense of urgency to accomplish life tasks.  There may be guilt and a feeling of burdening caregivers.  There may be apathy and hopelessness.  There may be a feeling of pressure to “think positive”.  There may be sadness at missing out on future events.  There may be regrets for past mistakes.  There may be anger at the world.  There may be fear about what may or may not come next.  There may be anxiety about pain they will face.

All of these things exist on top of the very real physical symptoms that are present as well.  It can be a daunting and exhausting experience.

Counselling provides a space for those with terminal illness to work through issues such as:

  • Anger
  • Grief and loss
  • Role changes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Meaning/existential issues
  • Dignity
  • Spiritual concerns

Caregivers and family also contend with feelings of loss and grief.  They often feel helpless to alleviate suffering and may try to suppress their own suffering.  If not expressed and processed, these feelings may then surface once the loved one dies and they are left to process the experience.

Counselling can be of benefit for family and caregivers either during the illness or after a loved one has died.  Some of the issues that can be explored include:

  • Anger
  • Bereavement
  • Isolation/loneliness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Meaning/existential issues

If you or a loved one are dealing with issues related to end-of-life care, please contact me and we can work together for you to integrate your life experiences and have a peaceful and dignified death.