When you are terminally ill, some of the most important things to consider are your goals. They can range from the practical to making memories for your loved ones to have after you’re gone.
It’s essential that you, the patient, express your desires regarding everything from medical decisions to who you want at your bedside when the end comes. This will help to prevent any family discord.
You should have an Advanced Care Directive as well as a proxy who can make medical decisions for you, should you be unable to do so. Even with these valuable tools, it’s often difficult for family members to believe that your desires could be what they are. Hearing them from you, yourself, will go a long what toward helping others understand that your proxy and medical team are honoring your wishes.
There is Always Hope—Hope Changes
People who are terminally ill often go from big hopes to being disappointed. They go from hoping for a cure to hoping for “quality of life.”
There’s a difference between curing and healing. We can be healed, even at the end of life. Healing is wholeness. It’s reconciliation between estranged family members. It’s forgiveness. There comes a time when we need to switch from treatment for curing to healing. Sometimes healing involves leaving lasting memories for posterity. Are there people you need to make peace with? Are there unspoken things you need to say? Include these on your list of goals.
This is where hospice comes in. Hospice, as an approach, can enable a patient to look outside of the box and find other ways to reach these goals. Figure out a way to meet your goals even if you have died. For example, prepare cards for events such as your children’s birthdays, graduations, weddings, and other big events.
How do you want to be remembered? How will you ensure you won’t be forgotten. Discuss this at your family meeting so that you can get the help and support you need to have your wishes fulfilled.
Your Goals: Live until you Die
Everyone has certain goals they’re holding on to. What are your goals? They may include a wedding you want to attend, the birth of a grandchild, or a trip you want to take. These goals can strengthen your resolve to survive.
A lot of people avoid setting goals out of fear of failure. Only when you say your goals aloud and write them down, can you really set your heart and mind on achieving them. Don’t worry if they change. Goals often do. Reassess them often and decide whether or not they are still a priority, or if they need to be adjusted, or changed completely.
You can hang on to hope that you’ll get to the wedding, or visit Italy. But, if you can’t get there, have a plan in place that will enable you to experience a taste of it. With your care team and family, have a discussion based on your goals so that your family and care team can help you reach them and make memories in the process.
Palliative and Hospice Care
Family and close friends should understand the benefits of hospice and why you, the patient, and your caregiver have decided that it’s time to receive hospice services. When will hospice care begin? Will services be in-home, at a facility that specializes in hospice, or somewhere else?
Create a List of tasks that Need Doing
The needs of you and your caregiver/family will change over time. When this happens, it’s important to revisit this discussion and create a new plan to help with the added burden.
Memories: Our Story
In the time we have had, Dan has spent time writing letters and making both video and audio recordings for his children and grandchildren. We bought a home and have been intentional about making memories. We’ve had family pictures taken and even had casts of his hands made. In the time we have left, he will continue to live until he dies. We pray that will be a long time off.
“When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since my husband, Dan was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness.
My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com