Lee Physician Group - Palliative Care
Serious Illness Changes Holiday Priorities for Many Patients
For most people the holiday season is a time for giving gifts, shopping, spending time with family and friends and eating seasonal foods. Patients who are battling cancer or other serious illnesses may have other priorities.
"They probably will not feel up to or have the energy for a typical holiday celebration," says Sherika Newman, D.O., palliative care physician. "However, we should encourage these patients to have a modified celebration in whatever format they can or choose to do."
Dr. Newman says that patients living with a serious or terminal illness go through a series of emotions during this time of year. "They feel uplifted by visiting friends or relatives," Dr. Newman says. "They may also be depressed because it may be their last year, and they tire easily because of the illness."
Love and listening may be the two best gifts we can give someone who is in a lifethreatening situation. "We should listen to our loved one for what pleases him or her during the holiday season," Dr. Newman says. "What they want may be different from what we perceive that they want."
Keeping some holiday traditions, like food, may help the patient feel connected to other family members. "The foods we eat have a large impact on our emotional wellbeing," says Valerie Butram, Lee Memorial Health System oncology dietitian. "We form emotional attachments to food because we associate it with things that have happened to us. Just the aroma of familiar flavors can bring us back to memories of that time in our lives. It is no different for our critically ill or terminal patients."
If eating has become difficult, Valerie says that there are techniques to help patients enjoy some of their favorite foods. "There are many ways to downgrade food textures for ease of swallowing," Valerie says. "It is possible for many people to enjoy their favorite foods, if it is safe for them to swallow."
Listening, with regard to food or other holiday issues, is the most important part of spending time together. "The best that family and friends can do to make a patient feel part of the holiday celebrations, with or without foods, is to listen," Valerie says. "Listen to what that patient wants and the knowledge they want to share with you."
Palliative Care Offers a Team Approach
Sherika Newman, D.O.
Lee Physician Group
8931 Colonial Center Drive, Suite 200
Fort Myers, FL 33905