No two end-of-life experiences are alike. When a loved one enters hospice care, there is a great sense of the unknown for the days, weeks and months ahead. For many, this could be the first time they’ve experienced end-of-life care or watched someone they love draw closer to the end of life. Some individuals may remain mentally clear and communicative, while others may see their cognitive abilities decline drastically.
Yet while this time is difficult, caring for a dying loved one is a great privilege and provides an opportunity to learn about the most significant passage of life while supporting those we love. Don’t let the feeling of unpreparedness keep you from supporting your loved one in a way that will bring peace to your future self. Here are ways you can bring peace and comfort to you and your loved one during end-of-life care.
Be there for them
As a person approaches the end of life, they often sleep more. They may become unresponsive and difficult to arouse. Support them by sitting with them and holding their hand if they sleep. While they are asleep, talk to them about fond memories and share any important things you wish to say. Express gratitude, and share words of love or forgiveness.
Assume they can hear what you are saying as even when their eyes are closed, understanding can still occur. There is a great deal of “inner work” taking place as they may be processing any unfinished business from the past and letting go of attachments to life. If you practice prayer or meditation in your own life, this is a perfect opportunity to lean into your spiritual side and faith as you help create a safe space of love for the dying one.
Offer comforting food or beverages if possible
As an individual nears death, metabolic processes also slow down. The appetite for eating and drinking may also decrease. Forcing them to eat is not a good idea, especially if they can no longer do so. Instead, offer frozen juice chips or small ice chips as a way to offer comfort and connectivity. The coolness of the chips will be soothing against their skin. You can place a moist towel, glycerin swabs, or cotton pads on their forehead for relief as well.
Make their room comfortable and quiet
Dim the lights to avoid harsh glare, and play soft music they enjoy. You can also light candles or use an essential oil diffuser to provide additional comfort during their final days.
The senses of a person at the end of life are often enhanced and loud noises can be disturbing and unpleasant. Turn off the television, ask visitors to take their conversations to another room, remove the telephone, and minimize outside sounds.
Bright lights can also be disturbing, again because of enhanced sensitivity, so turn off any overhead lights and use a few small lamps in the room to create softer illumination. Place the lamps where they brighten up a workspace but not so that they shine directly on your loved one.
Keep them cozy
You may find that your loved one’s hands, arms, feet, and legs will become increasingly cool to the touch and are prone to having chills. Help them stay warm by covering them with a soft and cozy blanket. This is a wonderful opportunity to identify a blanket, shawl, or sweater that has special meaning to your loved one.
Guide them patiently
As the body is shutting down, your loved one may become disoriented, not knowing the day or time or what’s happening to them. To help them, let them know who you are and why you’re there. This will help their mind settle down.
The most important skill you will require as you care for a dying loved one is the ability to tune in to their state of being. Listen and observe carefully to help you recognize when something is causing discomfort or when there is a need for your closeness. Be ready to provide whatever gentle kindness you are called upon to offer and trust that you will know instinctively what to do when a need arises.
These moments spent with a loved one during the last few hours of life are precious and profound and they can change you for the good forever. Say yes and show up to offer comfort when this opportunity occurs in your own life. Our team of compassionate and skilled professionals at Embrace Hospice House can guide you through these final days.
We provide hospice care designed to reduce symptoms and discomfort and improve the quality of our patients’ lives while offering support to their families and loved ones. Additionally, we can help with their spiritual and emotional needs throughout their care. If you are looking for different levels of care for your loved one, choosing the right provider is paramount. Embrace Hospice provides the best hospice care in Myrtle Beach, SC. Contact us today at 843-353-6228.