The end of life is a difficult thing to deal with. No one is ever ready to lose a loved one whether it is a friend, child, or parent. Terminal illnesses can affect everyone differently. No one can be fully prepared for a terminal illness diagnosis. Thankfully, there are steps, processes, procedures that can help you get through these trying times. Your loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness…. What should you do to be the best support for them?
Feelings are something we all deal with. When you are dealing with an end-stage illness, anger might be the only emotion you have. You will question why? Why does anyone have to get a terminal illness? Why can’t we just all die in our sleep from old age? Anger is a natural response. You might be mad that this illness will bring suffering to your loved one. To help you sort through your feelings, talk to someone that you trust. Expressing your feelings will help you process them and give you the clarity you need to help your loved one.
Facing the end of a loved one’s life is always difficult regardless of circumstances or age. You love this person greatly. You can’t and don’t want to imagine life without them. Unfortunately, it is going to happen. One of the last things people want to think about and deal with at this difficult time is finances. Unfortunately, it is very important as it is one of the greatest stresses to ill individual and their families. There may be final wishes that need to be memorialized before the passing of your loved one. Your loved one has the final say in their final days of care. Listen to their wishes and see to it that they are followed wherever possible. Only ask questions when clarification is needed and don’t question their choices. They may have strong feelings about certain things so it’s important they know you will respect their wishes. If their wants and needs change, change with them. Always keep them happy as much as possible. See if there are any advance directives that your loved one wants or has in place. Some patients have had these in place for many years, but they might need to be updated. Does your loved one have a living will? Do you know if they have directives such as a DNR, or a do not resuscitate order, in place? Did they put in place a power of attorney and if so, who? The power of attorney will be responsible for all healthcare decisions if your loved one isn’t able to. Make sure you follow through with their wishes and not your own. No one wants their loved one to suffer. No one wants to linger because loved ones can’t let go. Do not put your wishes before your loved one that has a terminal illness. They chose you for a reason.
Finances are another difficult thing to deal with when a loved one is going to pass away. Many things have to be considered before they pass. Has your loved one chosen you to make sure everything is in order? Do you know where all of the important papers are like their will, mortgage papers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, life insurance policies, bank statements, investment statements, driver’s license, social security cards, debit cards, credit cards, checkbooks, savings account statements and passwords to any accounts that you may need? These are all important financial items to have access to. The last thing they want to be is a burden to their family. If there are difficult financial situations present or questions regarding bills, there are financial advisors and social workers available to assist you. They can help with hopefully alleviating some stress during this trying time and allow you to spend more quality time with your ailing loved one. Often, people sell assets to raise money to pay for everyday expenses. In certain circumstances, people who are terminally ill, choose to sell their policies as it not only reduces their monthly bills but could be the most valuable assets they own.
Things in life left unfinished bother everyone, not just the sick and terminally ill. Communicate with friends and family about the situation and ask them to help you make arrangements for your loved one, no matter what it is. It could be to take a trip out of the country, go camping with the family, adopt a dog from the local animal shelter, read a book to them, or simply spend time with them. No matter what it is, friends and family will do their best to make it happen. They want to see their loved one smile even if it is only for a moment. You might just be surprised what the family, friends, and loved ones are willing to do to make sure they are happy.
Even though your family member needs and appreciates the help and company, make sure they take time for themselves. They may need time to reflect, meditate, or just rest. No matter what your loved one is going through, always be there for them. They appreciate all you are doing.