Does the term, “incurable diseases,” conjure up the frightening image of your doctor telling you or a loved one that you have only a few years or months to live? There are actually several different outcomes for those who are diagnosed with a disease without a cure. While it is true that many incurable diseases are often terminal, that is not true of all of them. There are many incurable conditions that the patient will live with for their entire life but will still allow them to enjoy the longevity of healthy individuals. Here’s what you need to know about the distinctions between terminal and incurable diseases, as well as the treatment protocol for each.
As mentioned above, terminal illnesses cannot be cured. In most cases, they are likely to result in death within the near future. When diagnosing terminal illnesses, doctors often give the prognosis in terms of months, as many patients don’t live longer than that.
However, just because death is a certain outcome, it doesn’t mean that these patients don’t still deserve to live happy, fulfilling lives. After all, death is a certain eventual outcome for everyone. Although treatments for terminal illnesses can’t cure the disease, they can make patients more comfortable for the remainder of their lives.
Treatments in this area often focus on relieving pain, easing movement and addressing other symptoms of the person’s condition. The goal is to give patients their best chance of being able to enjoy their final days with their loved ones. As the disease progresses, though, these treatments can begin to lose their effectiveness, which is a big part of what makes terminal illnesses so difficult to manage.
Terminal illnesses include things like late-stage cancer, AIDS and some forms of heart disease. Of course, there are many more than those listed here, but these are a few of the most common. Prognoses can range from just a few weeks to several years.
Other Incurable Diseases
Now that we’ve gotten the doom and gloom out of the way, let’s take a look at incurable diseases that aren’t terminal, also called chronic diseases. Chronic diseases affect the patient for three months or more, often for the patient’s entire life. There are many conditions that, while incurable, will still allow the person to live a long, full life. Conditions like diabetes, asthma and a variety of mental illnesses, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, cannot be “cured,” but they can be managed.
With these incurable diseases, the patient will likely need to undergo treatment for the duration of their lives, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still lead a normal life for the most part. For example, a patient suffering from diabetes can manage the condition with insulin injections and a managed diet, and an asthma sufferer can use a medicated inhaler daily or in cases of emergency.
For patients with incurable, but manageable diseases, the prognosis is much more promising. Treatments can alleviate symptoms to the point where outside observers may not even realize that the person is ill. That is the ultimate goal of treatments in this area: to help the patients live normal lives. Although they will still maintain their diagnosis, they don’t have to be defined by it.
Dealing with an Incurable Diagnosis
Incurable diseases can affect anyone at any age, but they are especially common among the elderly. Managing these types of illnesses at the end of a person’s life can be particularly challenging. Of course, doctors want to prolong the person’s life as much as possible, but the quality of that life is also a major concern among the senior set.
It is not enough to simply keep a person alive just for the sake of keeping them alive. They also need to be able to enjoy the rest of their lives. Getting an incurable diagnosis can be incredibly isolating for the patient. Many begin to question their contribution to society and how they will continue to be fulfilled going forward.
Because of this, it is not just about treating the symptoms of the disease but also managing the person’s mental health. Depression and loneliness are common among patients with incurable diseases so it is important for family members and other loved ones to stay involved in the patient’s life and help them to stay involved in society.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with an incurable disease, it is important to remain positive. If the condition is not terminal, you and your loved one can enjoy many more years together. Try to keep the focus on your relationship with the person, not on the disease. Their condition is only one aspect of their life so it should not be the main focus of your relationship.
A Shift in Focus
In the past, medical treatment was all about treating the disease, but these days, many doctors have shifted their focus to the patient themselves, rather than just the disease. This leads to a more holistic approach to care, touching all aspects of the patient’s life, not just the overt symptoms of their particular condition.
Medical care is only one component of a patient-focused treatment plan. Mental health considerations, personal relationships and societal roles also come into play. The best senior care facilities will incorporate all of these factors into their caregiving to assure their patients of the best quality of life possible.
At Lakeside Manor, we provide dedicated assisted living and memory care services for the seniors who choose to live out their golden years with us. Our caregivers are highly trained in assisting our seniors in their daily activities while still helping them to remain as independent as they can be. Our goal is for our seniors to live fulfilling, enjoyable lives throughout their time with us.
We would love to take you on a tour of our facility to help you decide if Lakeside Manor is right for you or a loved one. Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment for a tour. We’re always happy to answer any questions you have about our retirement home, staff and services.