If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s not uncommon for the grieving process to start well before they actually pass on. However, there are ways to handle this anticipatory grief with grace and allow your family member to get the most out of the time he or she has. Here are some things to consider for people in this painful, poignant position.
Things May Not Change Immediately
Although having a terminal illness diagnosis is doubtlessly devastating in some ways, it doesn’t necessarily mean a person’s health is very poor or will begin to decline immediately. Indeed, many people with terminal illnesses live for months or years after recieving a diagnosis. If this is the case for your loved one, it is especially important to remember he or she probably has the same needs and wants as always. And many people with terminal illnesses want to be treated as normally as possible and avoid constantly focusing on their condition, according to information from the Mayo Clinic, although it’s also important to let them know you are there to listen to their concerns and fears.
Caring for Your Loved One
If you are caring for a terminally ill loved one in your home or theirs, consider making some simple modifications that help them enjoy their days as much as possible. For instance, start by giving the home a thorough cleaning. Just be sure not to get rid of familiar items such as family photos and knickknacks. Such items can spark happy memories for you and your loved one.
In fact, an article from HomeAdvisor suggests collecting beloved items around your loved one if he or she is bedridden. With your loved one’s permission, rearrange furnishings and other items to put the things that give them the most joy within sight or reach. This may also include collecting photos from various spots and putting them in a photo book that you can look through together. Encourage your loved one to talk about his or her life and share stories you may have never heard before. This will assure them that they will be remembered and missed while helping you create important connections to the past.
Seeking Professional Help
Also be aware that you may not be able to adequately address all your loved one’s physical, mental, and emotional needs. For example, your loved one may feel more comfortable talking to a counselor or clergy member about their fears. You may also need to enlist a professional medical caregiver to help with some home-care tasks. Or, depending on your loved one’s physical health, it might be necessary for them to enter a hospice. It’s important not to feel guilty if you need to ask for help, especially since the demands of caregiving could easily compromise your own health.
Discussing the Final Days
Before your loved one’s death is imminent, if it’s possible, take the time to discuss how they prefer to pass on. While many people want to be surrounded by family and close friends, others prefer to die privately. It’s important to honor their wishes, regardless of how you might feel. You should have a similar discussion about memorial arrangements and do your best to adhere to their requests as closely as possible when the time comes.
After all, that’s what it’s all about: caring for your loved one and treating him or her as you would want to be treated. As long as we show kindness and compassion to our loved ones throughout the process, they will be able to say goodbye with the dignity they deserve.