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Getting relief from the symptoms of fatal illness

June 21, 2004|by Susan Lyons

If you or a loved one are facing a terminal illness or nearing the end of life, it is important to address the medical and physical issues that will affect quality of life.

Ask a health-care provider what to expect as the illness progresses. Will weakness and fatigue become common? What are the most common side effects from this medication regimen? What are possible symptoms, and what can I do about them?

An individual may have some, all or none of the potential side effects. Pain relievers or stress reducers that have worked in the past might be more or less effective now, but patients should not settle for anything less than relief.

There are so many alternatives to medicinal treatment for pain and fatigue that it is important o be open to these methods. Self-reporting is the vital key to getting relief. It is up to the patient to report pain and symptoms in a timely manner so that treatments can be initiated and adjusted based on response.

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It is possible that an individual will be in and out of the hospital and various outpatient settings. Patients need to speak up, ask questions, and report pain and symptoms. If it is too tiring or difficult to participate actively in one's own care due to physical limitations, an appointed health-care agent or a trusted friend can be an advocate. Health-care providers should be told that this person may receive information.

Every hospital patient has an individualized plan of care. Patients should ask their nurse or health-care provider about a personal plan of care while in the hospital. It is equally important to know the discharge plans to allow a smooth transition from hospital to home. A person may need services in the home that were not necessary before. There are a number of home-care provisions available, including home health nursing, hospice services and medical equipment. A hospital social worker will provide explanations for services a physician is recommending, and can assist in accessing them.




Susan Lyons is a palliative care specialist and member of the Health Management Department at Washington County Hospital.

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