End-of-life care is a difficult and emotional time for families and patients alike. During this time, the emotional support provided by friends, caretakers, and other family members can be instrumental in helping everyone get through it together. Knowing exactly what to say or do to support a family in this situation isn’t always easy, so here are a few suggestions for how to provide emotional support during end-of-life care.
Physical Contact for End-of-Life Care
Physical touch is a powerful thing, especially for those who may feel isolated because of their illness. Holding a loved one’s hand or even touching their arm or shoulder can help them feel connected, cared for, and special. You can also offer a gentle massage, which can help your loved one relax and may even alleviate some of their pain or achy joints from spending time in bed.
Listen and Be Present
Sometimes, you don’t have to say much to offer support. Listen to your loved one talk about their feelings, concerns, and whatever else they’d like to discuss to help them feel heard and validated in what they are experiencing. Listening can also help them feel like nothing has changed. You are still just two friends enjoying some time together, which can be reassuring when everything else seems to be changing so quickly. Simply being present without speaking and keeping your loved one company can be helpful, too. Even if they aren’t feeling well enough to chat for the day, they may appreciate having someone nearby.
While professional music therapists develop treatment plans involving music to support mental health, you can simplify their techniques to offer a little bit of music therapy to your loved one. Listening to their favorite music has been shown to brighten moods and even jog fading memories. Your loved one may enjoy spending some time thinking and talking about the favorite memories that correspond to songs they once loved. Music can also be a good way to fill silence if your friend isn’t up to talking that day, or it can provide a pleasant way to pass the time if they are otherwise unable to leave the house.
Share Memories for End-of-Life Care
People nearing the end of their lives often feel compelled to share stories about their experiences. Sometimes, this can assure them that they made a difference during their lifetime, or that they accomplished great things. Sharing memories with your loved one, while a great way to spend an afternoon on its own, shows them that you value having them in your life and that you are grateful for the time you spent together. Consider putting together a photo album of your loved one’s life, rewatching old home videos, and asking them questions about different stages of their life to prompt conversation.
Read a Book Aloud
Reading books aloud isn’t just for bedtime stories. Books provide a welcome distraction for those who are unable to leave the house. They also can be an excellent way to pass the time if you’d like to visit your loved one but aren’t sure about what to say or do otherwise. Ask them about their favorite books growing up and bring a few of your own classics to share, then talk about what you’ve read together. Over time, reading books aloud can develop into a special tradition for you and your loved one.
Bring a Pet
Your pet brings you so much joy each day, so share that feeling with a loved one and bring a well-behaved pet to visit them. Therapy pets have been shown to decrease pain and blood pressure while increasing endorphins and happy feelings. Studies have also noted that petting a dog, cat, or other furry friend initiates an instant relaxation response, helping to ease anxiety and even pain.
Help Out with Chores
Family members who aren’t ill need plenty of emotional support as well. They’re often worn out from the daily demands of caring for their loved one, managing medications and appointments, and otherwise ensuring the patient’s comfort. Helping out with small chores, like doing the dishes, taking the dog for a walk, watching the kids after school, or doing lawn work can make a huge impact in their day and give them time to rest when they need it.
Choosing a Hospice Care Provider for End-Of-Life Care
Speak to Harbor Light Hospice for more information about emotional support or their hospice care services. Harbor Light’s hospice care teams include counselors that can provide emotional support to patients and their families while offering other loved ones guidance on how they can best help their friends during this stage of their lives. Care teams also consist of nurses, doctors, therapists, chaplains, and volunteers, who all work together to create a customized care plan designed to meet the unique needs of each patient and their families.