How to Die with Dignity
Receiving a terminal diagnosis is never easy. Dying with peace and dignity can be a difficult goal to accomplish. Although it may be very difficult, you can make some decisions that will allow you to feel dignified through the end. Processing your emotions and surrounding yourself with support are essential. There are several steps you can take to make the process more bearable.
Considering Your Physical Options
Understand your diagnosis.When you receive a terminal diagnosis, you are going to be understandably overwhelmed and emotional. This is normal. Take a few days (or as long as you need) to process the information. When you feel able, ask your doctor to discuss the diagnosis with you again. Ask a lot of questions, such as treatment options and specifics about your prognosis.
- Ask a family member of close friend to go with you to talk to your doctor. A lot of times, people are overwhelmed when discussing their own health. Your friend can be your advocate, making sure to ask questions and take notes.
Learn your legal options.Physician assisted suicide is something that many terminal patients consider. This is an option in several states, but it is not nationwide. If this is an option that interests you, ask your doctor if this is an option available to you. Many states are currently considering passing legislation that is titled Death With Dignity.
- Discuss this option with your family. Many people are interested in physician assisted suicide as it allows them to be more in control of the process of dying.
Consider hospice.When faced with dying, hospice care is another option that you can consider. Hospice care is not to cure your illness, but instead, to make you as comfortable as possible during your final days. In many cases, hospice care takes place in your own home. To many people, this is a more comfortable place to rest and helps with the acceptance process. Hospice workers are on call 24/7 to assist in your needs.
- There are also hospice programs where you are cared for outside of your home. You may be able to find more than one program in your area. Don't be afraid to gather lots of information before deciding which type of care-giving is right for you.
Tell a loved one your wishes.Although it is very difficult, you will need to have a conversation about your death plan with a loved one. This is known as making advance directives. If you prefer hospice care in your home, for example, make sure that you have made that preference clear to your family. As your illness progresses, it might become more difficult for you to communicate your choices. Try to make a plan relatively soon after your diagnosis, even though that may be very difficult emotionally.
- You should make sure that a trusted family member or friend is granted your power of attorney. This will enable them to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
- Contact an attorney in your area to help guide you through the legalities of transferring your power of attorney.
Cope with your physical limitations.Often, deteriorating physical health goes along with a terminal illness. You might find that your body is rapidly deteriorating and that you are no longer able to complete simple tasks for yourself. One of the most difficult parts of this process is to be able to rely on others to do simple things for you while still maintaining your dignity.
- Choose your caregiver with care. If you are hiring a professional, make sure to discuss their style of caretaking during the interview process. You want to find someone who is nurturing and kind, but who is not condescending.
- If you have decided to have a friend or family member act as your caretaker, have an open conversation with them while you are still able. Explain to them that it is important to you to keep your dignity and that you want them to still speak to you as an adult, and never to "baby" you. Ask them to read some articles about caregiving. Your doctor should be able to provide some good resources for that.
Anticipate losing some of your independence.Another difficulty that you might face is losing some of your independence. For example, depending on your illness and medication, you might soon be unable to drive a car. This type of loss of freedom can be very frustrating, especially since you are already dealing with a lot of emotional changes.
- Try starting a gratitude journal to help keep you focused on the positive aspects of your life. Taking time every day to write down a few things that make you feel grateful can improve your well-being and make you feel happier.For example, you might feel grateful for a hot cup of tea, a conversation with a loved one, or getting to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
- Try joining a support group to help you remember that you are not alone. You can discuss your thoughts about losing independence with other members of a support group and find out what they have done to cope.
Dealing With the Psychological Effects
Process your grief.When facing a terminal prognosis, you will be dealing with a range of emotions. One of those will likely be grief, as you come to terms with the fact that there is a timeline for your final time. Be kind to yourself and take some time to process your emotions. Make sure to remember that there is not a "right" way to feel. Everyone handles the news differently, and that is okay.
- For the first few days, your emotions might seem to change from moment to moment. It is normal to feel anger, denial, fear, and sadness. Acknowledge how you are feeling, and know that what you are feeling is understandable.
Cope with your worries.One of the strongest emotions you feel might be worry. Logically, you will worry about dying and what will happen after you are gone. Research tells us that one of the most effective ways to mitigate worry is to focus on what you can control. After you have had time to begin to process your grief, you can start thinking about options for your care and making plans for when you have passed.
- For example, you can begin making choices about the medical treatment and care that you want to receive for the rest of your time. Make sure to consider several options, and make a choice that feels the most comfortable to you.
Look for ways to enjoy life.Your diagnosis might be that you have days, weeks, months, or years left to live. When living with a terminal diagnosis, it can be very difficult to focus on anything else. However, it is important that you try to live your life while dying. Try to focus on the things that you are still able to do, and make sure to spend time with your loved ones.
- If you enjoy being outside, make it a point to enjoy the sunshine each day. Ask a friend or family member to take short walks with you when you are feeling up to it.
- Many times you might still feel healthy, despite your prognosis. If this is the case, don't be afraid to do the things you've always wanted to try. For example, maybe you've always wanted to travel abroad. If your doctor says that you are healthy enough, go for it.
Get support.Coping with a terminal illness is incredibly difficult. It is important that you surround yourself with your loved ones and try to let them help you. This may be difficult for you, as you might not want others to see you as sick, or you might not want to bother your family with the amount of work it will take to help you manage your illness.. Those feelings are normal, but you and your loved ones will both feel better emotionally if you resist the temptation to distance yourself from others.
- There are many support groups for people coping with terminal illness. Ask your doctor to recommend a local group for you to join. It can be comforting to be around others who are in a similar situation.
Arranging Your Affairs
Make a will.A will can be a pretty simple, straight forward legal document, but it is essential. If you don't have one, you will want to have one drawn up.You can do this yourself or hire a lawyer. Make sure to specify the beneficiaries of your possessions and any financial holdings you may have. If you have children, your will should clearly state the person who will become their legal guardian.
- Make sure to name an executor. This is the person who will make sure that your legal wishes are carried out.
- If you are terminally ill, you will also want to create a living will. This will give a designated family member or friend the power to make legal decisions for you when you are no longer able.
Plan your memorial.Making plans can be calming and it may also help you deal with stress. Some people like to make the arrangements for the memorial service that will occur once they have passed away. You can make plans, and they can be as specific or general as you like.
- If you feel strongly about having either a religious or non-religious service, make sure to specify that. You can also make choices such as the type of music you would like to have playing during the service.
- Make your plans clear to a loved one that you can trust. You can do much of the planning yourself, but you will need someone to actually oversee the process once you are gone.
Say your goodbyes.You may find some comfort in saying farewell to your loved ones. This is a very personal matter, and one that will naturally be on your mind. Remember, there is no one right way to deal with dying. You can die with dignity by dealing with the process as you see fit.
- One way to say goodbye is by having a conversation. If you feel you will become distraught, you can plan in advance what you would like to say. Remember, tears and emotions are normal.
- Some people choose to write letters to their loved ones as a final goodbye. These can be read before or after you have passed.
QuestionDoes this apply to goldfish?The Petty BettysCommunity AnswerI don't believe that goldfish have a sense of dignity, but if it makes you feel better, go ahead and try these steps.Thanks!
QuestionWhat happens if I do not die on the day predicted to be my final?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou continue to live. There are many factors that could change any prediction of your final day, including the fact that nobody can actually know the day they will die unless they use euthanasia, which is illegal in most places in the world. If a doctor predicts how long you have to live, then they are making a guess based on their medical knowledge and they may be wrong in either direction or they may be close but being spot on would be rare. Enjoy the life you have and do your best to not spend your time worrying about death.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I accept my death?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerJust make sure that you've made peace with everyone in your life and finish anything you'd like to accomplish.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I give myself cancer?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can't. I don't think you should want cancer. It is very painful and has cost people their lives. You don't want cancer no matter what you are going through. It hurts a lot to have cancer. You don't want it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I'm in pain?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry not to let it show or ask for some pain killers.Thanks!
QuestionI'm about to commit suicide. How can you help?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerCall the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. There is help for you and it gets better.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I kill myself painlessly?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf you're having thoughts of suicide, don't hesitate to call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. If you're intending to die painlessly, you might want to look into doctor-assisted suicide options (either inside or outside of the US).Thanks!
QuestionIs killing my clone suicide?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerI think it would be considered murder, not suicide. Even if you are genetically identical, you're still different people.Thanks!
- Dying is a very personal experience. Remember, there might be no right/ wrong way to handle the situation. Don't push yourself to meet a goal and try to keep calm.
- Consult your doctor to come up with the medical care plan that is right for you.
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