How to Communicate with a Loved One in Hospice Care
Visiting and communicating with a loved one in hospice care can be emotionally draining and challenging. Nobody looks forward to seeing their loved one in this situation but keeping communication open is absolutely crucial for both you and your loved one. Everyone imagines that they’ll spend their end-of-life time surrounded by the people they care about most and providing them with emotional support ensures that their time is spent in meaningful ways.
With this is in mind, finding ways to communicate with them is still a challenge, so this article will cover some thoughts on communicating with your loved one in a meaningful way through their end of life care.
Follow Their Lead
Many people avoid bringing up certain topics with someone in end of life care for fear of appearing to be losing hope. Others might respond to the anxious situation by being blunt and clear about the situation. The most important advice is to follow your loved one’s lead. If they want to talk about certain topics, talk about them. If they don’t want to discuss the situation, don’t. The most important thing to do is follow where they take the conversation and join them.
In this time, everything should be about what your loved one wishes. Some patients may prefer that you discuss the situation candidly, while others might prefer to laugh and talk about what is going on in your daily life to take away the tension of the situation. Whatever the case, don’t feel apprehensive to talk to them. They know that they are in a tough situation and having a good conversation with the people that they care about most will provide them with the emotional support they need.
Tell your loved one that you are thankful for the time that you had to spend with them and the impact that they had on your life. This is one of the most important things that someone should hear during their end of life period. Everyone wants to know that they were able to touch the lives of others during their time on earth and that they will be remembered for their good deeds long after they are gone.
Talking about happy memories from the past also lightens the mood and will help to keep both you and your loved one’s spirits high during this challenging time. Show your appreciation for them, and they will have fond memories to look back on during their care to help ease their mind of more difficult thought.
Talk Through Touch
According to Dr. Allen Weiss, human touch is essential to build trust and show someone that you care for them. In his article, he is also quoted as saying, “We can help folks by shaking hands, touching, caring, reading to them and interacting in ways that bring back pleasant memories.”
When words aren’t enough to show how much that you care for a loved one, gently touching their hand or hugging them can communicate your feelings in ways that you could not in simple conversation. Make sure that your loved one isn’t starved for human interaction and talk to them through touch during each visit you have with them.
Although we hope that when we visit a loved one in hospice care that everything is perfectly fine between us, but sometimes things in the past might still hang like a dark cloud. In these difficult times, if you are taking the time to communicate with them and visit them, you should take the time to forgive them for anything in the past if possible. Many people, especially those that hold religious beliefs, want to know that they have a clean slate during their last days. Let them know that, neither you nor anyone else, harbor ill will towards them so they can be at peace.
Off of the same point, if there is anything in the past that happened between you two that you wish you could correct but haven’t, now is the time. You want to know that at the end of their life that you both had no regrets. If there were words in the past you wish you could have taken back, or if you’ve always wanted to tell them something, now is the time. Remain completely honest with them and make sure that neither of you has any regrets.
Although we hope that we will have another chance to say goodbye to a loved one, each time that you leave your visit, it could be the last time that you see them. For this reason, you should avoid saying things like “see you later” or anything casual without much emotional weight. Otherwise, you could end up wishing you had said more.
Each goodbye should leave your loved one knowing that you appreciate them and that you will always miss them. You don’t need to be overly mushy with everything that you say to them, but make sure that your goodbyes mean something more than “I’ve got to run, I’ll see you later.”
Should children come to the visit?
Some parents might feel the need to shield their children from the thoughts of death and end of life care, but in most cases, it is perfectly appropriate to bring them. Your loved one will want to see them, and children will appreciate what could be the last opportunity to visit your loved one. Before the visit, talk to them in an age-appropriate manner about the situation and what they should expect during the visit.
Your loved one will want to know that the younger generation is thriving, so bring along pictures from their recent birthday parties, sporting events, and let the kids talk to your loved one naturally about their recent achievements at school or on the field.
Communicating with someone in hospice care is difficult for everyone, and it’s okay to feel at a loss for words. Keep these thoughts in mind during your visit and you and your loved one will feel a much stronger connection.