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End of Life Care: What to Expect

Caring for a loved one who is dying is not an easy experience. Though you know the end of life is approaching for them, you will probably never feel ready. Knowing what to expect, and what you can do to assist, can be helpful.

There are many options available for end of life care. Palliative care specialists are highly trained in caring for people nearing the end of life. If your loved one has chosen to die at home, you and your family can assume the role of caregiver or arrange for palliative care with a home care services provider. Some people may prefer to receive care at a hospital, nursing home or hospice facility. Consider your loved one’s preferences, as well their physical and emotional needs at this time. Evaluate how much help and support can be provided by family members and friends. If you need help with determining your options, discuss the situation with a doctor or a social worker.

Final Wishes

Encourage your loved one to share their feelings and give others a chance to say goodbye. Expressing their thoughts of gratitude or forgiveness can open up discussions about important feelings, which can be deeply meaningful for everyone. Help them communicate their final wishes to family and friends, or assist them in leaving a legacy. This could be in the form of letters or recordings for loved ones to be opened at important future events, or leaving behind some reflections on their own life.

Spirituality

As they approach the end of life, they may talk about spirituality or the meaning of life. If they are open to discussing these subjects, encourage them to address, explore their feelings. Ask them questions about their beliefs, experiences and their meaningful moments. Offer to invite a spiritual leader to visit to speak with them.

Comfort

The process of dying usually begins several days before death. You can’t change the situation, but you can help them feel as comfortable as possible. At this time, the support of a palliative care specialist can have a very positive impact, for both the patient and their family.

Your loved one may have a a brief surge of energy as the process continues. This is completely normal, but it can be confusing. Should it happen, take the opportunity to enjoy their company and say your final goodbyes.

Keeping vigil

Many families have a tradition of keeping vigil by the bed of a family member who is dying. If you think that your loved one would want to share this time, invite family and close friends to join you and show their support. Talk and express your love, but let them know that it is okay for them to let go now.

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