According to the National Institute of Health, people who are dying want three things: truth, touch, and time. When a friend or loved one receives hospice care, showing your love and support can be difficult. Knowing what to say to provide comfort and peace and navigating the myriad of feelings you’ll likely experience. Regret has a way of burrowing itself in our lives, so we encourage you to take time with your loved ones to show them you care. Here are six ways you can accomplish this.
- Be honest and open. When a person is dying, research shows that honesty is one of the top needs. Doctors, nurses, family, and friends should all be honest about everything. Whether related to their health, prognosis, or personal life, avoid dishonesty and be open and truthful. Open and honest dialogues are freeing and provide closure when it is needed most. And don’t promise that you will come back unless you indeed will.
- Touch. As humans, our need for touch begins at birth. Touch plays a critical role in not only our development but also our physical and mental well-being. Touch releases the hormone oxytocin, which decreases stress. Physical touch promotes sleep, decreases heart rate, and lowers blood pressure. It can also reduce pain, feelings of isolation, and anxiety. But touch can also help the recipient feel supported and loved. You will remember the touches you shared with your loved one long after they are gone, so hold their hand, hug them, kiss them, rub their back, and brush their hair.
- Make time for them. Time – it is one of those things many don’t appreciate until it is up. When faced with a terminal illness, you want more time. Every moment matters – as it should. Don’t squander precious time that you can spend making lasting memories. Pop some popcorn and make it a movie night. Play music and sing together. Ask questions about your loved ones’ history. If possible, create a memory book that highlights their life and share it with them. Take pictures of the moments you are blessed enough to share with them. You will look back on those images; hopefully, they will fill you with love and warmth inside.
- Tell them you love them. Our need for love matches our need for physical touch. Everyone wants to feel loved and needed. This is especially true when facing a terminal illness. Share your feelings of love without reservation. They mean more than you know.
- Listen. Let your loved one take the conversation where they want. Provide them with space to share their feelings – all of them. Let them get out the words they need to say. Be there to support them and respond with love and honesty. If their thoughts are in another time and place, be there with them. Rather than trying to reason with them, ask questions about what they are experiencing at that moment. Be there to support them wherever they are in their mind.
- Provide personal care. As mentioned earlier, touch is magical. Personal care becomes difficult at the end of one’s life. You can support them by providing personal care. Wash their hair and then style it. Give them a manicure or pedicure. If your loved one enjoys wearing makeup, apply it for them. Help them feel beautiful. You can change their bedding, straighten their room, and wash their laundry. Consider what they enjoyed and appreciated when they were well and help with that. Doing so will help calm their mind and body by lowering the stress hormones in their body. This, in turn, helps to decrease pain and improves sleep.
After a person passes, memories will be what matters most. Make them. If you have questions about other ways to show your support, we are here to help. Give us a call, and we will provide suggestions to help make life a little easier for you and your loved one.