• Treat the person as you did before. This will let the person know that your relationship is still the same. Act natural and be yourself.
• Try not to stereotype patients. Keep things personal and use real names.
• Don’t assume a false cheerfulness. (You are not happy they are sick.)
• Allow your loved one every opportunity to make decisions about anything!!
• Don’t take offense if the person doesn’t follow your advice. The person may be trying to keep some independence. Be sensitive and diplomatic when taking over personal decisions.
• Help the person stay connected to the outside world. You can assist by making phone calls, writing letters, and helping to arrange visits with family and friends. Keep calendars and clocks visible.
• Include the person in family life, as much as possible. He/she will be glad with family successes, too.
• Encourage youngsters to read and play games with the ill person. Watch for fatigue, unless the person is having fun and wants to continue.
• Make the most of every good day.
• Help the person lead as normal a life as possible.
• Help your loved one find meaningful activities and short-term goals. Starting a lifetime memoir and keeping a journal are good starts.
Stages of Grief
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a medical doctor from Switzerland, has described the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It is important to remember these are the five stages of loss, and family members, also, go through them while grieving the loss of a loved one, (Any loss in life can lead a person into these stages.)
This happens when the person thinks, “this is not happening to me” or “there must be a mistake”. At this time, the person is not ready to deal with the situation. If denial continues, it can inhibit the progression through the other stages. Helping the person through this stage can be as simple as just listening and sharing in their anguish. Do not put on an act by pretending everything is all right.
The person may appear to be angry at friends or family. In reality, the anger is not directed, specifically, at these people but is general anger that says, “Why me?” The person may be angry with God. This is normal anger and a very healthy response indicating they have passed through their denial.
The dying person seeks to bargain with God saying, “I will do anything to change this.”
Grief over what has happened and what will not happen, will lead to depression. The person may begin to grieve over other losses, such as loss of hair, inability to work, and loss of body image. Past losses may add to this feeling.
This develops as the person comes to terms with the change in life’s circumstances. It is helpful for the person to talk and help make future plans. They may begin to say good-bye, and may not want to see many of their relatives and friends, known as withdrawing. In the end, they may want only a few people to stay with them. “My time is short” is a common statement from the patient.