Spending time with someone who is terminally ill
Written by Anna McDaniels
If you are ever in the very sad situation of having a close friend or family member terminally ill, it is a very difficult time. Many people are uncomfortable and uncertain on how to show their love and support to their ailing loved one. Every situation is different as every person is different; the following suggestions are intended to make the time spent together as meaningful and as stress free as possible.
Assess the Situation
Every Illness is different. Your loved one will have good days and bad days. Ask them how they feel and assess how they look and act. If they are having a bad day, take things slow and help them in any way you can. Try to make them comfortable while still respecting their personal and tangible space. If in doubt, ask before you help.
If it is a good day, ask them what they would like to do. If they are capable of going outside, ask them if they would like to do so? Try to fill their good days with some variety and color.
Help but don't do everything
This can be hard as we often try to make the others life as easy and simple as possible. If they can do some things for themselves, let them. Don't make the mistake of taking away all their daily chores- sometimes the day to day tasks provide structure, meaning and distraction for them. They may get to a point where they cannot do and then you can help until then try to let them meet as many of their own needs as possible.
Interact with them as naturally as Possible
Many ill people do not want people walking on egg shells around them. They are the same person they have always been. Often they want the same relationship they treasured with you. If you often crack jokes, keep doing them. If it is your friend, still act like their friend, tell the stories, and share your life too. If it is your parent, let them still parent you. Ask for their advice- involve them in your life, share your life with them too. Don't worry so much about burdening them with your situations as sharing yourself with them.
It is okay to do nothing
If they are resting or having a bad day, it is okay to do nothing. You don't have to talk. You can hold their hand, stroke their hair, read them a book or just sit in the room- and read your own book. The silent companionship can be very reassuring. Enjoy their company even in silence; having the time is a gift.
Take care of yourself too.
Don't allow you to get sick or run down. Take breaks, go home and rest. Do other things. Re- charge. Your loved one does not want to see you get run down on their account. They love you too and want to know that you are taking care of yourself and your life also. Don't sacrifice too much of one for the other.
Listen without reservation.
Let your loved one talk. If they are having a down day and are depressed, let them have their moments. Support them as they will go through many cycles. Don't try to talk them out of their feelings. Accept and support them. Likewise if they are having a good day, don't try to have them "rest" or tell them what to do. Let them pace themselves by their feelings and abilities.
Think of fun, quirky things they can do.
Assuming they are up for it, watch old movies, walk the park. Play board games; listen to music or audio books. Blow bubbles and do manicures. Eat fun foods and play cards. Try to think of fun things they can do to make the time together spontaneous and enjoyable.
Help out the rest of their family if you can.
This is both a kind thing to do and ressuring for your loved one to see the ones they loved being taken care of.
As the going gets tough, be there. Follow their lead. The time and love is self evident to them. You will treasure the time and opportunity to have been there and the privilege to help care for them. When you don't know what to do, share your feelings of uncertainty. They will understand and help you through it. They will know you love them and you will feel loved by them and that is what it is all about.