Palliative Care Program

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Coping with Serious Illness

Life during advancing serious illness often presents many challenges to the patient with the illness and to their support network. The person with a serious illness quickly experiences physical, emotional and environmental changes and limitations. Symptom management and maintaining resilience can stress the individual on many levels.

The support people often find themselves in new and unexpected roles, less prepared than they would like to be. Everyone comes to the experience of serious illness with a long history of skills and resources. Identifying these and developing and utilizing new, healthy coping behaviors and strategies is essential to the wellbeing of the person with the illness and to their loved ones.  

Identifying positive coping skills and strengthening them with the available resources is only the first step. Establishing and strengthening a working, trusting relationship with professional caregivers and ongoing personal education regarding the individual’s experience will help to create a positive and hope filled experience. Allowing family and friends to help and giving them permission to be actively involved can add an important level of security and comfort for the person and gives the family/friend a sense of meaning.

More often than not, coping with serious illness requires learning and integrating new skills. The many changes and challenges can be a barrier at times. Utilizing the services and resources of the well-established complimentary therapies can significantly lighten this burden and improve quality of life and response to treatment. It is not necessary “to go it alone”, the outcome of sharing the experience and allowing others to help, while using available resources, strengthens coping skills and enhances overall success in treatment.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, often called a Healthcare Proxy, allows you to appoint an individual who will make decisions should you become temporarily or permanently unable to make medical decisions for yourself. It is a distinct document from a general Power of Attorney, by which an individual may assign decision-making for finances and other items. It does not pertain to finances and will only deal with your medical care.