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Dealing with Denial: 4 Tips When Caring for a Terminally Ill Person in Denial

Dealing with Denial 4 Tips When Caring for a Terminally Ill Person in Denial

When told that their illness is terminal, some people may act like everything is okay and that nothing is wrong. Studies show that denial is a common coping mechanism for those diagnosed with a terminal illness. It can come in many forms, such as refusing to accept the diagnosis, having no emotional reaction to the illness, and refusing to accept treatment thinking that they will be okay without it.

When is denial harmful?

Denial can be harmful when it interferes with necessary tasks, such as refusal to get treatment. In such cases, you may need to seek the help of a professional with expertise in the care of terminally ill patients, such as a physician or a hospice specialist.

Dealing with Denial

As an experienced provider of home health care in San Antonio, Texas, Four Seasons Hospice lists some tips that may help you deal with someone who is in denial of their illness:

  1. Listen
    Listen without judgment or interruption. At the earliest point of their diagnosis, denial may be the only way that they can cope and feel in control. As much as possible, don’t push them to talk about their diagnosis if they don’t want to. As their illness progresses, their perspective may change and they may be more open to talking – be ready when that time comes.
  2. Offer Assistance and Reassurance
    Are they worried about how and where to get treatment? Are they worried about the expenses? Offer assistance and let them know about their options. As much as possible, let them be involved in the planning of their care – this may help them feel in control of their life again and help them be more accepting of their situation. If they start talking about things you know won’t happen – don’t argue or confront them. Instead, try to understand the root of their concern and offer reassurance. Looking for professional hospice care in San Antonio, Texas? We are just a call away.
  3. Differentiate Denial from Lack of Knowledge
    A lack of knowledge can be resolved by gathering the right information; on the other hand, people in complete denial may simply refuse to acknowledge facts. Without being too pushy and confrontational, calmly talk to the person in denial and help them understand their situation. Talk to them about their symptoms and treatment options. Encourage conversation with experts or people who have been in similar situations. Having more information about their illness may help them become more accepting of their diagnosis.
  4. Be Understanding
    People in denial are often afraid – they might be afraid what their illness will do to them or to the people they care about. If they are concerned about how their illness might affect you, they may deny how sick they really are. Give them a chance to talk, and try to understand their fears.

There’s no easy way to deal with a terminal illness, but hopefully, these tips will be able to help you and your family.

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One Response to Dealing with Denial: 4 Tips When Caring for a Terminally Ill Person in Denial

  1. Melissa hix

    A friend was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. He has been in denial about the outcome of this and has been sleeping for a year. He has a few good days thrown in and a couple of manic days. But he has wasted away to nothing really. He now needs a walker because he kept falling and had no muscle or energy to get up. Furniture raisers were added to the couch so he could get up easier. And even now he still says he will be fine. He’s not going anywhere. He says that when we are trying to tell him that we don’t want to lose him. He’s in his early 50s. Right now he’s in the hospital. His ammonia levels keep him confused, slurred, unable to keep his train of thought. How can we get him to admit he’s dying. If he would admit it and start wanting to move, walk, sit up, anything but lay down maybe he could get better and get back on the transplant list. He was kicked out of the program because he was not showing up for appointments. He would just reschedule. His wife is under so much stress. He says he’s lost. His mind just goes on a loop. Maybe he has some form of ptsd. Maybe something is locked in his brain. We are grasping at straws and we need help. Real help. Please! We are in San Antonio. He’s in university hospital. Anyone please, we are begging. We are running out of time. Please!

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