Caring for a dying loved one is a natural part of life that many of us will experience. While being in the presence of someone close to death can be difficult and stressful, caring for them is even more so.
The end -of -life experience and what your loved one might need will be different for each person, but a lot of it will be related to the circumstances.
It may involve physical care, some of which could be quite intimate and/or intense, medical treatments you are not familiar with, dealing with complex emotions, and possibly spiritual issues. All of this is happening while experiencing your own anticipatory grief. However, successfully managing the demands of caregiving can be personally rewarding as you find purpose and meaning in the experience.
Much of your role as caretaker will be to provide comfort in the form of hands-on physical care, including bathing, help with eating, dressing, grooming, toileting, and other personal care.
As we saw in Palliative Care and Hospice Services, physical discomfort and significant pain are common for those near death. Since comfort is the primary goal for those facing the end of their life, you may also be giving your loved one medications and other medical treatments for this pain and discomfort.
Even though the pain medication and other medical treatments may make them more comfortable, they may not always express discomfort to you or their healthcare providers.
During the last days and hours before their death, there are many common types of discomfort that may arise. Here are some to expect and ways you can provide relief for their discomfort
In addition to physical discomfort and pain, your loved one may experience emotional pain from a range of feelings. They may be experiencing grief over their approaching death and the many things they have lost, such as physical independence, contact with friends and close relatives, control over their own life and body, and/or their mental capacity. Emotional Support During the End of Life goes into detail about the stages of grief and other possibly overwhelming emotions during this time.
The most important thing is to communicate openly and be patient with each other and other family members.
Seek professional help from your loved one’s healthcare professional, hospice, counsellors, social workers, clergy, and other resources to assist them in dealing with emotional and spiritual issues.
It is important for the whole family to have some emotional involvement with the end of your loved one’s life. They should also interact well with each other and avoid any outward turmoil that would make it harder on your dying loved one or prevent emotional healing after their death.
Caregiving for a dying loved one can be a physically exhausting and emotionally draining experience. You must also take care of yourself and seek help in order to manage the stress of being a caregiver.
It is important to remember that you will be experiencing loss as well. You and other family caregivers will have a similar mingling of emotions and feelings to your loved one, in some cases for different reasons. You must manage these feelings in order to continue to support your loved one.
It is also important that you seek help to manage all those things you need to do as a caregiver.
Just as important is to take time to maintain your own health and wellbeing by making it a priority and not an afterthought when you can find the time.
Aside from taking care of yourself, there are things that you can do to make your life easier. The most important are acquiring what you need, getting help, and arming yourself with knowledge. No detail is too small to plan for. You might be surprised how many of them there might be.
There may come a time when your loved one is no longer able to make their own decisions and you must take on the role of making decisions in their best interest. This may also include decisions regarding end-of-life care. It comes highly advised to discuss wishes ahead of time.
Once you are aware of these preferences, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved one is to honor those decisions.
Even if you are aware of your loved one’s wishes, it is best that they be recorded somewhere and you have officially been appointed to carry them out.
As you share the end-of-life process with your loved one, you will interact with healthcare providers and specialists helping you through the process.
Your loved one’s healthcare providers may also need to depend on you to provide them with accurate, complete information to be able to make good assessments and provide the best possible care for your loved one. You can help by knowing all of their major medical problems, surgical and other treatment history, doctors’ names, medications, and drug allergies.