Hi there! Have you heard this word before, “Terminal Illness”? The word itself sounds scary, isn’t it? When the word itself gives a creepy feeling, just imagine how difficult it would be for a person who would be actually suffering from it. Technically, the word terminal illness refers to a disease that would remain lifelong or cannot be completely cured. It is a gradual degenerative disease. Terminal illness is most commonly used for diseases like cancer, advanced heart disease, AIDS etc. It is ultimately believed to end the life of the sufferer if the disease progresses on its normal gradual course.
Psychophysical stages of terminal illness
A person who is terminally ill goes through a lot of physical and psychological challenges. In some terminally ill, these may manifest quite obviously and in some cases it may go unnoticed due to lack of psychophysical sensitization or simply that the person may be suppressing it. In either ways, it is very important to know about the psychophysical difficulties that the terminally ill person goes through. It will help the healthcare practitioners and care takers to impart proper and adequate treatment and care of the patient.
Shock and Disbelief
This is often one of the first reactions when a person comes to know that he/she is suffering from a terminal illness. I was working in a NGO for HIV/AIDS patients few years back. I still remember one of the patients taking home-based HIV test till the last day of his life. Sometimes the disbelief is so strong that it is nearly impossible to shake and shed it off. Questions like are you kidding? Why me? Is it possible? What wrong did I do to go through all this? What next? Will I die? What will happen to my loved ones? What will the society say? These are some of the common questions that hit the mind when someone comes to know about his/her terminal illness. Shock and disbelief are undoubtedly the common reactions that you will notice in such cases.
Worries about the future, apprehensions about what is going to happen next, worries about treatment procedures and finance, death anxiety… Gradually these symptoms creep in into the life of a terminally ill individual. Each and every second comes like a heartthrob of unending hopes, questions, tension, worries, apprehensions and fear. Anxiety in its crude form or death anxiety may be present both in the initial phases and throughout the course of the terminal illness.
Changes in sleep and diet patterns
Terminal illness leads to significant changes in sleep and diet patterns due to its physical and psychological repercussions. Either there may be an increase or decrease in the same.
Cognition refers to higher processes of thinking. Terminal illness can impair the cognitive processes of the sufferer in the form of memory problems, difficulty in focus-attention-concentration, decision-taking problems and so on.
Depression and suicidal tendencies
This is something that needs to be very carefully observed, understood and handled. If you feel that the terminally ill person is depressed, withdrawn or is getting suicidal, then immediate medical attention should be given.
Along with the symptoms that I mentioned above, terminal illness also includes some other psychophysical symptoms in some cases. They are: fatigue, restlessness, breathlessness, irritability, stress, frustration, social withdrawal, weakness, and problems in daily functioning as a whole.
Effects on life as a whole
Terminal illness is not a mere physical illness per say. It influences each and every dimension of life of the patient. His personal, social and professional life gets into a state of turmoil altogether. If the terminally ill patient is accepted and treated with dignity then it’s really great and praiseworthy. But, in some cases such individuals are banished from their families, localities, workplaces, etc. Sometimes, they even have to bear a lot of stigma and discrimination.
Rather than treating the terminally ill with disgust and despise, it is necessary to understand that they require your love, understanding, care and support. Just because they are suffering from a terminal illness does not mean that they do not deserve the right to live with dignity and respect. They may not require your sympathy, but your empathy will help them go a long way in their lives.
Falling a prey to a terminal illness is one of the worst nightmares a person would have. If you or your loved one are experiencing any terminal illness then I would suggest you to go through my next inspirational blog. It may not take away your illness away… If only I could do so, I would whole-heartedly do it… But the blog will definitely give you a ray of hope that you are not alone in this storm. There are many people who are sailing in the same boat as yours. Let us take some time to understand, reflect, motivate and live life to its fullest even with the suffering. You can do it!!!