Facing a disease for which there may be no cure, such as advanced colon cancer, can be overwhelming. You'll be considering many issues, such as:
- When should you stop treatment?
- Do you want to continue treatment, even if you reach a point when your doctors say there's only a small chance it will help?
- When should you consider hospice care?
- Do you want home health care for end-of-life care?
- Are you more comfortable having you or your loved one's end-of-life care managed in a hospital setting?
Consider the Home Option
If you are dealing with a loved one's terminal illness - what can only be described as the hardest thing you'll ever face - consider managing his or her end-of-life care at home. A recent study found that dying at home is significantly less distressing for cancer patients and their families.
Dying at Home Less Stressful
To better understand how the dying experience affects cancer patients and their caregivers, researchers followed 342 patient-caregiver pairs. They found striking differences in the stress and anxiety experienced by the pairs in which the person died in the hospital vs. those dying in the home:
- Patients who died in the hospital had worse quality of life at the end-of-life than patients who died at home.
- The caregiver had increased risk of developing mental health issues after their loved one died when the death occurred in the hospital.
- The caregiver was 5 times more likely to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when a loved one died in the hospital compared with having a loved one die at home.
- Families were significantly more likely to develop a condition called Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) - an intense and disabling form of grief lasting more than 6 months, when their loved one died in the hospital compared with dying at home.
Not Giving Up Hope
According to Angela Morrow, RN, the About.com Guide to Palliative and Hospice Care, "People who choose hospice are not giving up hope, they are in fact redefining it. Though there may no longer be a possibility of curing their illness, they redirect their hope into mending and restoring relationships, spending quality time with those they love, and finding peace and comfort."
Gather Information, Make Choices
One of the most important things you can do when you're facing decisions regarding end-of-life care is to gather as much information as you can. It's OK to get second, or even third and fourth opinions, regarding treatment options and whether continuing treatment is right for your loved one with advanced cancer.
Just know that when you do have to prepare for the worst - the death of a loved one from colon cancer - home end-of-life care is one option. For many people, it may be the best way to spend quality time together with family, honor a loved ones life, and say good-bye.