Helping make your loved ones comfortable with a terminal illness

In medicine, there's one ultimate enemy. It's what doctors try their hardest to avoid and what patients will fight until they have no options left.

Death is an inescapable part of life, and we'll all have to deal with it at some point. Do you know what to say or do if your loved one gets a terminal diagnosis?

Many people make some common mistakes in the moment.

Robert Gorelick traveled the world with his wife Sarah. When Sarah was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, Robert's world turned upside down.

Robert Gorelick, Remembers Wife, explains how the knowing that she was going to die took a toll on her, "There was never five minutes where she could forget she was ill."

How loved ones, like Robert, react can make all the difference for someone who is dying. One mistake is, not using the right language. Experts say we shouldn't talk about "winning" or "surviving" because when it's time to face death, it feels like "losing" or "failing" to the patient.

David Kessler, Grief and dying expert, explains one way to try and view the situation, "Could we possible see it as, you completed your life?"

Another mistake is, not using hospice or palliative care. One study of more than 4,000 patients found hospice care extended survival for those with pancreatic cancer by three weeks, lung cancer by six weeks and heart failure by three months.

Gloria Herle, Father has terminal lung cancer, explains how hospice care helped, "You have someone here if they are in pain. It's taken care of."

Mistake number three, suggesting aggressive treatment when it won't make the patient better. A recent study says two-thirds of patients will undergo therapies they don't want if it's what their loved ones want.

Kessler explains how it should still be about the loved one, "The first thing you have to ask yourself is what would my loved one have wanted?"

The last mistake is, not asking for a physical reminder of your loved one, such as letters, a written story or a recorded message.

Cindy Cisneros explains what they did for the physical reminder, "We even did a hand print of the mom for this young girl that she can always touch and just have that connection that children crave so badly."

Robert holds onto lots of pictures of the wife he lost. Robert holds on to the sweet memories of one of the most difficult time of his life.

Another tip is, you may want to rethink what your doctor tells you about your loved one. One study found 40-percent of oncologists report offering treatments that they believe are unlikely to work.

And 63-percent of doctors in a Harvard study overestimated the survival time of their patients. The average estimate was 530-percent too high.


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