Hospice care professionals spend a lot of time with families. Much of that time is spent listening, offering a comforting hand on the back or nod of the head and simply providing reassurance that things will ultimately be okay. In all these interactions, one thing remains the same – we recognize that the death of a loved one is always significant and emotional. It’s a time filled with questions, some without answers, and a time for reflection.
During this complex period in life, many families find themselves in the comforting hands of a professional hospice care provider. While each of their experiences is unique, one thing remains the same – the hospice care professionals are there to offer support and make this time of transition a little easier for the entire family to cope with.
As professionals, we have the unique opportunity to learn a lot about families and even about life itself. Here are a few of the lessons that we’ve learned about what your loved one wants you to do. Our hope is that sharing them can make your journey a little easier.
Ask Tough Questions
In the final days and weeks of life, the last thing most families want to talk about is money, possessions or burial plans. However, questions about these things are important to ask. Discuss your loved ones wishes, where paperwork is located and what their intentions are for the things that they own and love. This empowers them to make decisions and helps them to understand that you value their input and want to help them achieve their goals. When having these conversations, don’t dwell and do follow their lead. If they’re not ready to talk, don’t push it. If they are, sit and listen with respect and without judgment.
Save a Few Tears
Losing someone you love is tough, and emotions can creep in long before they’re gone. While this life event is certain to make you sad or angry, don’t spend all your time with your loved one crying. Your loved one wants to talk to you, visit with you and create final memories with you. If you can’t hold back tears, try to step out of the room or wait until after your visit is over. Don’t hide your emotions but do try to stay focused on the positive. Give them that gift. It is certain to mean a lot to them.
Bring Your Children Along
Some families want to spare children from the pain of seeing their favorite relative sick and closer to death. If at all possible, don’t do this. Children are resilient, and they can handle more than we often think they can. In most cases, they want to spend final moments with this person. They love them too, and these last memories and the chance to say goodbye mean a lot. Children also have a way of bringing light into a room. A simple hug or a shared jar of jellybeans just might bring a smile to your loved one’s face. Give them this gift. They’ve certainly earned it.
Old photo albums, those long forgotten family movies and those favorite recordings from days gone by can help spark conversation and laughter in the room. Take this opportunity to share these moments with your loved one. Ask them questions. Perhaps share a couple of long kept secrets. When your visit is over, leave your loved one dreaming of the past, a time when they were younger and healthier and ready to tackle the world. This is a great way to provide emotional comfort, spiritual support and an appreciation for a life well lived.
Sometimes you might visit your loved one and find that they aren’t in the mood to talk. Honor their wishes and recognize that a little silence is okay. Don’t get up and walk away though. Instead, just be there. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone when your mind is wandering and full of thoughts. Perhaps offer a glass of water, a cup of tea or a bowl of soup. Fluff your loved one’s pillow or stroke their hair with a favorite brush. They’ll be comforted knowing you’re there, and you’ll be glad for that too.
Death is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be a completely negative experience. Recognize the importance of every moment you have left with your loved one. Each minute is a gift, and cherishing this time together is what matters most right now. By recognizing that, you’ll make this time in life a little easier for yourself and the person you love too.