A most difficult decision regarding healthcare which many families have to face is: should the dying loved be told that she or he doesn’t have much time to live?
According to experts, for the terminally ill patients, this bitter truth could prove beneficial and assist them to prepare. But for many others, this truth could be devastating.
Abigail Van Buren, the columnist of newspaper, when was hit by the Alzheimer’s disease, the family decided on keeping the diagnosis from her.Her family decided not to tell her about the diagnosis.
Pauline Phillips passed away at 94 the previous year and Eddie, her son, believes she knew instinctively that she was going to die in spite of the silence of family.
She had insisted on reading that book, ‘I Love You, Ronnie’ which is collection of the letters between Ronald Reagan, the former president and Nancy, his wife. In correspondence, a sufferer of Alzheimer’s, Reagan, writes to his wife about the progressive disease where one could only go down and there isn’t any light at end of tunnel.
While Phillips was reading that line to Eddie, it was deduced by him that she knew already.
Director of UCLA Longevity Center, Gary Small, says that to be truthful with someone who is dying is considered preferable always. He says that this helps in maintaining their autonomy as well as ability to realistically plan for future. But, he said exception is when news could cause undoubtedly undue suffering.
One competent psychologist, Jack Singer and president at Psychologically Speaking, acknowledges it to be delicate matter. He says that many times families continue to placate their loved ones telling them they would be fine and it’s quite often that patients are aware differently and are ready to combat the reality. He said that they might want to get their issues settled or talk to any clergy member regarding spiritual matters.
He says that when the families start living in denial, the patients don’t get chance to reveal their true emotions or resolve any issues they have to before departing the world.
Dr. Singer also said,
“You should always try to understand and empathize with what the patient is saying rather than judging or getting irritated because they are ‘giving up’ or telling them they are wrong. The patient needs dignity in being heard and preparing for passing.”
One geriatrician, Leslie Kernisan, based in San Francisco and who writes regarding aging issues said that she generally suggests that the patients should be told, though there’re exceptions, like the patients who clearly say they do not want to know any terrible diagnosis.
Dr. Singer says that for children having terminal illness, again it is a different evaluation with each case, depending on maturity and age of child.
He says that he marvels at the cancer patients due to die soon, for instance, who at young age even discuss frankly matters of their death and express the emotions to their loved ones. He says that is that could be accomplished, then it was the healthiest of ways.