Death is never easy to talk about, especially when a loved one is in hospice care. Those who do find the strength to say goodbye often discover that their loved ones appreciate having a frank discussion. If you’re having trouble starting the conversation, consider talking to a counselor, spiritual leader, or hospice care provider in Memphis.
Knowing When the Time is Right
Generally, doctors hesitate to define an anticipated life expectancy for patients with terminal illnesses. It simply isn’t possible to accurately predict whether a patient has six months or six weeks to live. But hospice caregivers, who work with the dying every day, are attuned to the signs that the end of life is near. As your loved one approaches death, you’re likely to notice at least some of the following changes:
- Refusal to eat and drink
- Decrease in urine output
- Decrease in body temperature
- Significant increase in sleeping
- Agitation and restlessness
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Sounds of chest congestion
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Periods of no breathing
It’s your decision whether to wait to say goodbye until your loved one is close to death. Bear in mind that, depending on your loved one’s health condition, he or she may not be able to have a clear conversation with you toward the end of life. If you are emotionally able to do so, you may prefer to say goodbye when your loved one first enters end of life care.
Starting the Conversation
When it comes to end of life conversations, there really isn’t a great way to break the ice. Sit with your loved one, hold his or her hand, and tell your loved one that you’re there for him or her. Ask what you can do to help your loved one be more comfortable. Let your loved one know that you understand he or she is dying, and then ask if it’s a good time to talk about it. Try to avoid using euphemisms unless you think your loved one would prefer it. It’s possible that your loved one has been waiting for you to start the discussion and would rather speak frankly about it.
Avoiding Future Regrets
When planning to have the conversation, think of what you might regret not saying to your loved one after he or she is gone. He or she might live for weeks or even months after you’ve said goodbye, but there’s always the possibility that you won’t get another chance to say what you need to say.