If the person you care for has a life-threatening illness, you might think it’s only natural for them to feel down. Even hopeless from time to time.
But weeks of sadness are not a side effect one simply has to tolerate. It is not uncommon for someone with cancer or a similarly scary diagnosis to become depressed. But depression can and should be treated. Effective treatment makes for better quality of life. It can also improve other symptoms, such as pain and insomnia.
Easing physical distress. The first step is to address difficult physical symptoms. Ask for a referral for palliative care. These specialists aim to resolve pain, nausea, fatigue, and other distressing symptoms, even when they are the side effects of treatment. Hospice also specializes in comfort care. Ask the doctor if a hospice referral is appropriate.
Addressing emotional issues. Your loved one may feel despair about unresolved relationships. Or may be grappling with concerns about dignity or feeling like a burden to others. Medications and short-term psychotherapy can help a lot. Also support groups with other patients. Palliative care and hospice specialists know this terrain. They are well versed in the emotional issues that arise with a life-threatening illness.
Finding meaning or purpose. Facing a potentially terminal illness can raise questions about the meaning of one’s life. Some people find relief in life review with a trained counselor. Others find meditation brings calm and a new perspective. Talking with a member of the clergy or other spiritual advisor may bring solace. Hospice programs have chaplains on staff. They can help your relative find meaning and purpose without pushing a particular religious agenda.