There are three terrifying words – “it’s terminal cancer” – you never want to hear about your mother. Your father. Or sibling. Spouse. Child. Or best friend.
When someone you know is faced with a terminal illness, his or her whole world gets flipped upside down. That’s why it’s important, as the supporter, to be there no matter what.
It can be difficult to know what to say or do in times of need. Rick Russell, RN, director of ProMedica Hospice, offers a few tips on how family members and friends can offer additional support.
- Have a presence in your loved one’s life. Continue to be a part of their daily routine. Call, visit and write as often as possible to let them know how much they mean to you.
- Don’t underestimate the power of listening. Let your friend or family member openly discuss their thoughts and concerns.
- Show empathy and reassurance. Our loved ones with terminal illness are sometimes afraid to die because they are worried about leaving others behind.
“These are all immeasurable gifts of support and love,” Russell says. “But the biggest takeaway is letting them know it is okay to be ill. This helps them feel peace and comfort at the end of their life.”
Remember, your loved one’s happiness and comfort doesn’t rely solely on you. Do what you can to help keep them comfortable and fulfilled, but realize that if he or she chooses the palliative care route, then there are a number of people to rely on for additional support.
Russell explains that palliative care provides an extra layer of support to people with serious, life-limiting illnesses.
“We talk with the patient, their physicians, nurses, pharmacist, chaplain, social worker, and key family members so that patient’s goals can be validated,” Russell says. “Having a team of experts and family members present ensures that we are treating the whole person and ultimately improves the quality of life.”