The knowledge that a loved one will soon pass away can be a painful thought to bear, and a difficult process through which to go. There is no right or wrong way to discuss important information about a loved one’s approaching passing because each person and each family is different. Since 1985, our organization has helped families navigate the hospice process, and we want to share some helpful advice our experience has taught us.
Sharing News With Loved Ones
A helpful way to make sharing news easier is to designate a trusted friend or family member to notify others about important information.
An alternative method to designating one person to share the news is to have a family meeting. This meeting may include a social worker and doctor who can help convey information and answer everyone’s questions right away.
“Is there any way I can help?”
It is common for people to ask how they can help. Try to consider requests to help beforehand and let them know what those around you can do, so their assistance falls in line with the patient’s wants and needs. Although they may be in the final stage of life, a lot of patients need those around them to help them live their last part of life to the fullest of their ability.
Throughout the years, our patients have offered suggestions such as:
- Assisting them with day-to-day tasks and fun activities.
- Discussing their condition and diagnosis.
- Going along with them when they shop or walk the dog.
- Talking about subjects besides their illness.
- Visiting during “difficult” times of the day.
Talk About Dying and Death
It comes as a surprise to many people when their dying loved one wants to talk to them about his impending death. Sometimes their loved one may worry about what to say to those around him. The subject of death is not easy for people in hospice or their loved ones, but talking about the dying process can be therapeutic for everyone. Although not all patients want to discuss the process through which they are going, there are some ways to open the door for discussion, like:
- Asking questions regarding how they feel on an emotional, physical and spiritual level.
- Avoiding the urge to fill the silence. Sometimes silence can be calming as opposed to awkward.
- Bringing up funny, pleasant memories. Most people in hospice still have the same interests they did before they became terminally ill, and sharing memories helps a dying person enjoy a better quality of daily life.
- Engaging in the conversation. Ask questions, and be present in the moment. Simply listen to what they have to say instead of trying to solve the problem.
Sharing a Loved One’s Last Wishes
At some point, a patient may want to tell those around them their end-of-life preferences in regards to treatments, final arrangements and other instructions. A family member or close friend who feels comfortable enough discussing topics such as those can document the patient’s wishes, so family can follow the patient’s instructions.
For more help, check out our organization’s Advance Care Plan.