Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns

Fatigue – What is it and what may cause it

We had to carefully plan our day as things got worse. I found just getting dressed made him very tired for an hour or two. But he’d just rest afterwards, and that was okay. Eventually we just couldn’t do it anymore, so he saved what little energy he had for short visits and that was really it.

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness or a lack of energy. People with serious illness may have fatigue that lasts for a long time and does not go away even with sleep or rest. The tiredness may be all-encompassing, so that the person generally feels weak, runs out of energy very quickly, and has difficulty concentrating.

Generally, fatigue is caused by a combination of reasons related to the person’s advanced illness. Roll your mouse over each of the boxes below to see some reasons.

Causes of fatigue



Pain – Poor sleep – Worry – Depression


Causes of fatigue



Side effect of treatments


Causes of fatigue



Complications of the illness, such as infections and anemia


*A serious illness itself, even without specific complications or side effects of treatments, tends to be draining on the body’s energy.


People who are seriously ill may feel exhausted even after staying in bed for hours at a time. Improving this type of fatigue with new treatments or a change in medication is not always possible.

Keeping track

Be sure to note the person’s fatigue or any changes in the tracking journal. This will help to share information with their healthcare provider.

Click here to see the questions the healthcare provider may ask. You might use these questions to guide the tracking journal.