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What to Know About Caring for Someone with a Terminal Illness

Everyone has a different reaction when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness.  When we found out that my mother had cancer, we were at a loss for what the next steps were in order to provide for her, as well as take care of our own children and family.  The ultimate fact was, my mother needed help more now than ever. The following are ways in which you can help an ailing family member or loved one who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Ask Your Loved One What They Want

Everyone has a different reaction to a terminal diagnosis and their own preferences for how they wish to live the rest of their life. Be sensitive to this and don’t push your own desires ahead of theirs. Ask them what they would like to do in the time they have remaining. Ask them if they would like assistance with legal, financial, and healthcare paperwork.

Create A Wish List

What would your loved one like to accomplish in the time they have left? Is there a place they would like to visit? Is there a special occasion coming up? Is there someone they would like to see or speak to?

Try to do as many of these things as possible. If your terminally ill loved one can’t travel to the places they would like to visit, bring the places to them through photos and movies. Set up a video chat with loved ones who live far away or a live stream of a special event so they can still be a part of it.

Share Memories

Take this time to talk to your loved one about some of your favorite memories together. Go through old photo albums. Visit their old neighborhood. Ask them to share memories of their childhood and treasured family recipes.  Create a life journal or a legacy video where their stories can be preserved for future generations. Most importantly, be sure to give them your full, undivided attention. These stories are precious to them.

Get Affairs In Order

Some people plan for the final days of life well in advance, but others may not. Speak to your terminally ill loved one about what they would like to have at their funeral. Go through all-important financial and legal paperwork together to make sure you have all the information you need in one place.

Ask For Additional Help

You could be the primary caregiver for a loved one with a terminal illness, ask other friends and family members to pitch in. Perhaps you can set up a schedule for visits, so you have time to run errands or to simply have a break from full-time caregiving. If one family member is more knowledgeable about legal or financial matters, they may be able to work on this piece while other family members provide direct care.

If you are not the primary caregiver, offer specific things you can do to help. Things like assisting with the grocery shopping, driving your loved one to a doctor’s appointment, or taking care of a pet can really help to lighten the load.

Simply Be There

Suppose you are the primary caregiver, be sure to spend some time doing activities you and your loved one enjoy, even if it’s just holding their hand. You can watch your favorite shows and listen to music you both enjoy and swap memories. Watch funny movies and find ways to laugh together.

For other friends and family, don’t avoid your loved one during this time. Many people avoid visiting people with a terminal diagnosis either because they don’t know what to say or they fear they will be intruding. While you should call the primary caregiver first to make sure it’s a good time to visit, don’t let these concerns keep you away. Your presence can brighten up the day for your loved one and those caring for them.

Bring some old photos of time spent with your loved one to share or share more recent photos of family members. Or bring books they might enjoy and read to your loved one or bring a CD to listen to together. A terminal diagnosis can be very isolating for your loved one and their primary caregivers.

For more information on this topic or any other mental health or wellness subject, we are here for you.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to 832.421.8714. We are all in this together!

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