The best gift you can give your dying loved one is loving, unified family support.
How can a family of caregivers navigate the stressful and emotionally challenging time during which a loved one is dying?
When a loved one is terminally ill, family members often step up to help with their loved one’s needs. And often, they assert their own points of view regarding what’s best for their dying loved one. While everyone may have the best of intentions, it’s not uncommon for tension to arise as a result of differences of opinion and differing styles of response to the situation (or even as a result of lingering childhood issues).
Below are some guidelines to help families navigate the stressful and emotionally challenging period during which their loved one faces end-of-life.
- Respect your loved one’s right to make his or her own decisions as long as mentally competent. Remember – your loved one is an adult, capable of planning his or her days and care preferences.
- Have patience with your loved one – and with other family members helping to care for your loved one. And try to have fun with your loved one and family members – humor and games can alleviate stress and tension.
- Help your loved one designate a healthcare proxy before he or she is deemed mentally incompetent. Your loved one should consider the individual most comfortable communicating with the him or her about his or her health situation. Additionally, the individual chosen will have serve as an advocate with doctors, nurses and caregivers. Such end-of-life plans are key – but should not be discussed at the last minute or at a holiday dinner. These conversations should be completely separate from other family events.
- Even if you have a strong opinion and don’t agree with certain courses of action or decisions, respect your loved one’s wishes.
- Clarify and respect the order for the flow of information and influence. If you are not the primary caregiver or healthcare proxy, support the person who has been designated as such. This will keep communication lines clear and keep heightened tensions at bay.
- Don’t judge other family members or talk behind their backs. As with other problems, address any issues directly with those involved.
- Get all of the family members involved – each person should have a task that he or she can “own,” like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, sorting medications, etc.
Remember, your loved one is facing the end of his or her life – the most important and helpful thing you can do is give your loved one compassionate, patient, unified family support.
Leah Yomtovian Roush is the Senior Manager of Strategic Development for Cleveland, Ohio-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. Leah is the editor of eFuneral's Online Resource Center, and she manages the company's marketing efforts and develops strategies for company growth. Leah also serves on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, helping them expand their reaches and increase their impacts.