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Dying At Home May Be Best - Preparing for the Worst

By September 22, 2010

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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

Many people fear that choosing the home option for end-of-life care and accepting hospice or palliative care means they are "giving up" on their loved one. That's simply not true.

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.

September 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm
(1) deborah says:

I do find all these end of life euphemisms and defeatest articles depressing. I have been cured of stage 4 advanced colon cancer with mets to liver. My husband died of cancer 4 years ago so I have seen cancer from both sides. I am writing a book on recovery and urge everyone to stay positive and optimistic and don’t allow negative prognosis become a self fulfilling prophecy . Love to all xx

September 30, 2010 at 3:04 pm
(2) coloncancer says:

I’m sorry for your loss Deborah. And I’m glad you’re willing to share your success at beating stage 4 colon cancer. I agree that more people need to hear that there is life after stage 4 cancer. It is not an automatic death sentence and nobody should be treated by their doctor as if it is. If that happens, I urge people to seek out additional opinions to find the right plan for them.

I hope you’ll share with this website and the readers when you publish your book. Having lived through advanced cancer yourself and having your husband die of cancer gives you a very valuable and unique perspective. I am certain you will have a lot of very helpful information to share with people facing a cancer diagnosis.

I wanted to say also, that I’m sorry my posting about end of life care was depressing to you. That was not my intention. I try to post a variety of topics that will be of interest to readers facing a variety of concerns. Some people are interested in screening and prevention information. Others in treatment-related issues. And still others in topics such as palliative and end-of-life care. If I’ve been erring too much on the end-of-life issues, I’m sorry about that. I’ll try to mix it up and share more information about other topics too.
Colon Cancer Guide Suzanne

September 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm
(3) Maryanne says:

I applaud you!

November 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm
(4) joanne doland says:

I hate these euphemisms… end of life – just call a spade a spade. I have lost two of my close family members in the last 8 months. They DIED. Use the phrase ‘CARE OF THE DYING’ not the coy p.c. ‘end of life’. The end of life is death, period.
Thank you, J.D.

November 18, 2010 at 11:02 pm
(5) coloncancer says:

Hi Joanne,
I am sorry for your losses. And I appreciate your perspective on this. You are right, end of life is death, and there is no way around it. No matter how you look at it, having someone die due to cancer stinks.
Colon Cancer Guide Suzanne

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