Handbook for Mortals : Learning about specific illnesses

Regardless of your illness, you are likely to share many concerns with others who face life-threatening disease, including the fears, worries, and needs for information and support that accompany this critical time in your life. Your particular illness will shape some of what you can expect to happen, and even how much can be predicted. Picture of a man sitting in a hospital room It helps to know that doctors often can give only very general guidance on how long you will live, and what problems are likely to arise. Like birth, death is not always predictable or logical. Nevertheless, you should press your doctor, and often a knowledgeable nurse, to tell you the best and worst that your illness is likely to cause.

Organizations devoted to a particular illness can provide you with helpful information and resources, often connecting you to support groups based in your own community. Only a few, though, are prepared to deal with the problems that illnesses cause close to the end of life. The Internet, which can be reached through terminals at many public libraries, offers an overwhelming amount of information. Be cautious in relying on some of the information posted in newsgroups or on bulletin boards; some of it will be no more reliable than advice you might get from a random person sitting with you on a bus. Check it out with your nurse or doctor before you trust it. One reliable source of information is the federal government’s site, Healthfinder [ www.healthfinder.gov ], which screens sites before adding links to them.

Talking about your prognosis
Questions you want to have answered
Keeping up with your prognosis
Concerns about heart disease
Concerns about cancer
Concerns about lung disease
Concerns about kidney failure
Concerns about liver failure
Concerns about HIV / AIDS
Concerns about dementia
Dying when very old

Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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