Life threatening illness

Strictly speaking, it's possible to make a subtle distinction between a life threatening illness and a terminal illness. In the case of the latter, the prognosis has been made and a specified time has been given until the end of someone's life. A life threatening illness, on the other hand, is defined as an illness where there's a strong possibility of a fatal outcome, but where the certainty of a terminal prognosis has not yet been given. In practice, particularly on websites dealing with death and funeral planning, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

General guidance for helping someone with a life threatening illness

Whether someone is facing a terminal illness or a life threatening illness, variations on the following ideas underpin much of the available advice in books and on support websites:

  • Recognise and acknowledge feelings and try to separate helpful and not so helpful emotions
  • Encourage open discussion about what is happening and how the patient is feeling
  • Encourage the patient to draw on previous experience as a source of strength
  • Allow the patient to decide on the support and help that they want
  • Sometimes, just being present is more helpful than trying to 'do' lots of things
  • Obtain information to help the patient understand what is happening and assist them with informed decision-making about treatment and care
  • Help the patient to plan and enjoy making the most of their remaining time
  • Look after the carers (their needs are often overlooked)

As a carer, one of the main things to remember is the importance of asking the patient for their preferences for care, daily routines and environment arrangements. For someone who might be feeling powerless and out of control, it's reassuring to know that their wishes are being respected. For carers, who cannot alter the outcome of the illness, there's consolation and comfort in knowing that they're listening to and acting on the patient's wishes.

Guidance for living with life threatening illness

For adults and children with life threatening illness, living with their disease or disorder creates massive challenges for the sufferer and their family. That said, a rich body of academic and popular writing, first-hand 'success stories' and the media coverage given to celebrities such as the late Jade Goody offers encouragement by showing how even the most difficult circumstances can be faced with dignity.

Many resources are available to help patients and their families. These range from specialist charity organisations through to web resources and a vast body of published material including titles such as the following:

Close to the Bone: Life-threatening Illness as a Soul Journey
Jean Shinoda Bolen
ISBN-13: 978-1573243032

Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness: 30 Short Morning and Evening Reflections
Edward G. Dobson
ISBN-13: 978-0310274278

Fighting for Your Life: How to Survive a Life-Threatening Illness (Paperback)
Jerome Wolfe (Author)
ISBN-13: 978-0967629605

Living with Life-Threatening Illness: A Guide for Patients, Their Families and Caregivers
Kenneth J. Doka
ISBN-13: 978-0787940485

Shelter from the Storm: Caring for a Child with a Life-threatening Condition
Daniel Tobin, Joanne Hilden, Karen Lindsey (Author)
ISBN-13: 978-0738205342

These titles specifically refer to life threatening illness in their titles; an even wider selection of titles relating to terminal illnesses can be found elsewhere on The Well Planned Funeral website.

The special needs of children with life threatening illnesses

Few subjects are as emotive as that of children with life threatening illnesses. While many of the needs of seriously ill children will be similar to those for adults, there is an increasing awareness that children with life threatening illnesses should be much more involved in decisions about their care.

A recent online article by Kendra Inman focused on how medical professionals increasingly believe that young people with life threatening illnesses, ranging from genetic disorders to illnesses contracted during childhood or adolescence, should be involved in treatment decisions, even when those decisions are difficult and emotionally challenging.

The full text of the article can be read at

Critical illness protection

According to This is Money UK, a leading UK financial website, a serious illness such as heart attack or cancer affects one-in-four women and one-in-five men before they reach retirement age. Assuming survival for at least 30 days after diagnosis, critical illness cover (also known as critical illness insurance), pays a useful tax-free lump sum on the diagnosis of around 30 serious illnesses, as well as in the event of being permanently disabled by injury or illness.

All such policies should cover the following seven core illnesses, with others covered depending on the particular policy conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Coronary artery bypass
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney failure
  • Major organ transplant
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Stroke

Though it is an expensive form of insurance, and not available once a serious illness has been diagnosed, critical illness insurance offers a welcome financial boost at a time of emotional stress and potential financial hardship (perhaps caused by the need to re-equip a home to cope with the special needs of a seriously or terminally ill person).

The importance of forward planning

Whereas a terminal illness diagnosis usually gives the patient some time to make plans and arrangements, a life threatening illness can strike very suddenly, perhaps making it very difficult to spend time putting plans and arrangements in place.

All the more reason why it makes sense to make sure that a will is in place and that other provisions are made before a life threatening illness occurs. The Well Planned Funeral makes it easy to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from recording and safely storing information, funeral wishes, messages to loved ones, photographs and bodies of work that will be meaningful to your survivors.

What's more, our secure online service means it's quick and simple to prepare a legal will. Whether you just want to make sure your wishes are correctly fulfilled, or you want to spare your next of kin from the heartache of trying to guess what you would have wanted, The Well Planned Funeral has a product for you.