Offering comfort and support to a loved one with a terminal illness is a huge challenge. The process usually begins with a loved one receiving a life-threatening diagnosis followed by periods of treatments or the initiation of comfort measures until death occurs. This progressive process leaves many bewildered as to how to care for a loved one “living with death.” There are numerous ways to offer loving assistance, the following being just a few.
There are various health-related and legal issues which will need to be managed. These areas can be overwhelming. Advocating for the best treatment for your loved one is one way to provide support. Working with a medical team that is professional and caring is one of the first orders of business. Navigating social services networks will assist with locating entitlements and programs which can help during this difficult time. Initiating and completing legal work such as a living will, pre-arrangement of celebration services and other legal matters are critical.
There are a variety of feelings and emotions an individual may experience when facing end of life issues. These feelings include fear of pain, uncertainly about spiritual issues, anger about the unfairness of the diagnosis or concerns about becoming a burden to others. Each person’s journey is unique just as every person is unique. A specialist from Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care says that, many times, just being there to listen is the best way to lend assistance. Also, keep in mind that not everyone may feel like talking about their situation. This is okay.
Offer to take your loved one to a local support group so they can talk with others who are coping with end-of-life issues. This gathering can help reduce feelings of confusion and isolation about “living with death.” Hospitals, doctors, nurses and social workers can be helpful in locating these resources. The internet is also a place to find online support communities. There are also support groups available for those providing caregiving to loved ones.
An individual facing the realization that they have more yesterdays than tomorrows left may benefit greatly from reminiscing or engaging in a life review process. Encourage your loved one to participate in this process. Reminiscing often helps individuals find emotional resolutions, it gives them the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of their life and identify what has been important.
Don’t be afraid to directly ask your loved one how you can best help them. This direct approach ensures you are providing the assistance most needed. Your help, in whatever capacity offered, will surely make this journey easier for your loved one.