By Scott Sanders, cancerwell.org
It’s hard to be there as a loved one reaches the end of their life, but it’s much harder when that end comes with a painful cancer diagnosis. Cancer doesn’t discriminate — old, young, man, woman— cancer impacts nearly 40 percent of people in the United States.
A terminal cancer diagnosisis one of the hardest things to hear. While cancer in and of itself is scary, terminal — an illness that can’t be cured and will ultimately lead to death — will take a lot of time to process and accept. There is no “right” way to respond to this kind of diagnosis. Some people continue to seek a cure, while others begin arranging their affairs. Either way, there are a lot of factors to consider and steps to take — and the cost of care is one of the most stressful to deal with. This guide hopes to help ease that burden by offering some important suggestions on how to prepare and predict the costs associated with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Even with a terminal diagnosis, there are still some treatments many people diagnosed with terminal cancer still need or want. These treatments can help you stay comfortable in your final months or years through palliative care, which eases aches and pains. Some life-extending treatmentscan give you more quality time with your loved ones. You can even choose to help science make advances toward a cure by participating in clinical trials.
Fortunately, Humana Medicare Advantage plans offer supplemental coverage for people with terminal cancer, from radiation to medications to dental work needed because of cancer treatment. This benefit allows you to focus on what’s important during end-of-life care, which is essential in maintaining comfortand independence during this difficult time.
A terminal diagnosis can weigh heavily on the heart and mind. It’s not uncommon for people with terminal cancer to develop depression or anxiety — two conditions that can have a negative effect on your remaining time. Many people feel anxious about money, making sure family is cared for after they leave, and getting their affairs in order in time. Others develop depression and deep despair when confronted with their mortality. They focus on regrets and what-ifs instead of making the most of the time they have left.
It’s natural to feel a surge of grief when your doctor gives a terminal diagnosis. However, when that initial sorrow doesn’t subside or gets worse, it’s time to talk to a mental health professional. There’s no reason not to — 42 percent of people in the United States have participated in behavioral health counseling at least once in their lives. A therapist or counselor can give you some amazing tips and techniques for positive coping.
It’s never an easy conversation to have, and under the shadow of a terminal diagnosis, it may be even harder. However, talking about your final arrangements with friends and family ahead of time can ease the burden on yourself and your loved ones. You’ll have a stronger peace of mind knowing that you’ll be remembered and celebrated in a way you want. Your family will have less decisions to guess because they’ll know your wishes and preferences.
Talk to a funeral home and get information about burial versus cremation, prices on caskets, and the difference between a visitation and a funeral. Talk to loved ones about music, readings, flowers, and people you want at a celebration of your life. You can even pre-pay for your final arrangements to make the process even more stress-free for your family.
Getting a terminal diagnosis can be extremely distressing, but after the emotional shockwaves slow down, just remember to be kind and compassionate to yourself. Whether you have years, months, or weeks left, just focus on enjoying the things in life you love the most.
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