What if I have stress and anxiety related to illness?

Coping with the realities of a serious or terminal illness is likely causing stress and anxiety for you and your family. If you are feeling a loss of control or emotional wellbeing, experts in hospice and palliative care can assist with:

  • Medications to treat extreme anxiety, which may be causing restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension or sleep disturbance
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Stress management skills
  • Understanding feelings
  • Access to community resources
  • Support and education related to end of life
  • Meaningful family conversations
  • Anticipatory grief and bereavement issues
  • Counseling for children
  • Other issues affecting quality of life

Your emotional wellbeing is just as important as managing physical pain and other symptoms.

Rely on a team of expert professionals who will help you address these concerns early and allow you to focus on what is important.

Learn more about improving quality of life by getting relief from stress and anxiety from serious illness.

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Should I be concerned about loss of appetite?

Many conditions can cause a decrease in appetite, including both physical and mental illnesses. As with any ailment, an analysis of why you have a reduced desire to eat will help determine the solution.

For example, uncontrolled pain, anxiety, and depression can all reduce the desire to eat. Hypothyroidism, heartburn, gastritis and constipation are conditions that also can cause decreased appetite but are easily corrected.

Patients with serious illnesses may also have electrolyte changes, difficulty swallowing or viral illness that can affect the appetite. Many of these conditions are treatable or can be better managed so that you can look forward to enjoying food and sharing meals with your family again. 

Learn more about loss of appetite with serious or chronic illness.

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Do I have to live with nausea side effects?

Nausea can range from mild queasiness to dry heaves and vomiting. In addition to making you feel miserable, it affects your ability to eat, drink and take medication. Each of those is important so you can remain strong as you face serious illness.

The best way to treat nausea is to understand its cause. Depending on your illness, your discomfort could stem from:

  • Vestibular issues (dizziness and balance)
  • Constipation or a bowel obstruction
  • Dysfunction in the digestive system
  • Infection or inflammation in the digestive system
  • The side effects of certain medications or treatments, such as chemotherapy

It is important that the underlying cause of your nausea is properly identified so you have access to the most effective medications as well as practical tips for easing your discomfort. 

Learn more about controlling nausea in serious or chronic illness.

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Is there help for difficulty with breathing?

When you have difficulty breathing (also known as dyspnea), your day-to-day activities become limited and you live with the stress—and fear—of not being able to catch your next breath. Depending upon the cause and severity of your problem, there are several ways to find relief. 

  • Sometimes simple measures—such as repositioning your body or increasing air movement by using a fan or opening a window—can make you more comfortable.
  • Special relaxation techniques may also be beneficial.
  • Oxygen breathed in through a nasal cannula is often helpful, but may not be the best solution for everyone.
  • Certain medicines, called antitussives, can help to control coughing and reduce secretions.
  • Anti-anxiety medications can address the fear and apprehension caused by breathlessness.
  • Opioid medications, such as low doses of morphine, work incredibly well to ease breathing discomfort, particularly toward the end of life.

Learn more about help to ease breathing trouble in serious or chronic illness.

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What are the signs of declining health?

When you’re with a person on a daily basis, it’s sometimes difficult to recognize how much they are declining. However, someone who visits less frequently may spot it immediately. The most obvious signs are:

  • Difficulty with “activities of daily living,” such as walking, bathing, dressing, eating and toileting
  • Loss of mental capacity
  • Complaints of increased pain, breathing difficulty or other symptoms
  • Frequent falls or accidents
  • Frequent hospitalizations or trips to the ER
  • Failure to bounce back after medical episodes

There also are other, more subtle signs that indicate decline, including:

  • A loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Preferring to be “left alone” or withdrawing from people
  • Sleeping more, especially during the day

If you are concerned about someone whose health appears to be worsening—whether or not they have a definitive diagnosis—there are a variety of resources that palliative care experts may be able to address.

Learn more about the signs of declining health in serious or chronic illness.

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Can I get relief for my type of pain?

If you have a serious illness and have been living with pain for a long time, you may feel discouraged or hopeless about finding relief. Perhaps you’ve been taking a number of medications, but with little or no result.

It’s important to recognize that there are numerous sources of pain, including:

  • Bone pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Tumor pain
  • Tissue pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Emotional/spiritual pain

Each one is treated by different types of medications or therapies. No single drug is good for all types of pain. It is important, first and foremost, that an accurate assessment be made so that the most effective medicines or combinations of drugs are prescribed. The keys to successful pain management are accurate assessment, constant monitoring of results and making adjustments, as needed.

Turn to the experts in pain and symptom management to get relief from your pain.

Learn more about controlling pain in serious or chronic illness.

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What help is available for my struggle with diarrhea?

Uncontrolled diarrhea is debilitating, uncomfortable and embarrassing. But equally concerning, it can also lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, skin breakdown and fatigue.

It is important to determine what is causing your diarrhea so you can receive the most effective treatment. For someone who is seriously ill, it can be due to:

  • Partial blockage in the intestine
  • An infection, such as clostridium difficile infection (C-diff) or E.Coli
  • Side effects of radiation or chemotherapy
  • Pancreatic insufficiency
  • Constipation/fecal impaction that is only allowing backed-up, liquefied stool to be released (overflow diarrhea)
  • Over-use of laxatives following a bout of constipation

Different medications, or a combination of treatments, are indicated for each of these. A physician will need to assess the best course of action.

In all cases, you need to stay hydrated, eat simple carbohydrates such as toast, rice or crackers, and avoid milk and other dairy products with lactose. 

Learn more about managing diarrhea in serious or chronic illness.

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What help is available for constipation?

Constipation caused by disease or the side effects of treatment can bring as much discomfort as the illness itself. If you have a serious condition and have been unable to find relief from constipation, please know that—with specialized insight and expertise—this can be managed.

Palliative care specialists understand that one type of medication does not work for all types of constipation. There are many different medicines that can help, but they must be prescribed in the most effective way. Depending upon the patient’s condition and the cause of their constipation, they may prescribe something relatively simple or develop a “cocktail” that combines several ingredients. Also, the same medication can come in several different forms (pill, liquid, granules or suppository) and they know from experience which form is likely to be the most safe and effective.     

Learn more about managing constipation in serious or chronic illness.

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