If you know someone close to you who is declining, you might be unsure of how to make the most out of the time you have left with them. After all, it’s a precious stage you have with them, and it can affect how they experience their last days or weeks of life. You want to ensure they feel loved and cared for during this time. Although it can be daunting to face the decline of someone beloved to you, the moments you spend with them going forward can become the most precious memories you make with them. These difficult times might be your most valuable, memorable, or sentimental memories with your loved one. Perhaps it is easier to appreciate someone when taking them for granted is harder. You are as loved to your loved one as they are to you, and they will also want their last moments with you to be meaningful. Thankfully, there are many ways that you can foster a strong bond and share a happy end-of-life with someone important to you. However, remember that every person and situation is different, so fit the following suggestions to yourself with whatever changes might be necessary. You know yourself and your loved ones better than anyone else!
Let’s start by taking a look at yourself. It’s hard to face the impending loss or endure the decline of someone important, and you might begin to mourn prematurely. Being upset is a normal and understandable reaction, as this is a painful time. Maybe your beloved one may start acting or feeling different to you and not be the person you knew them to be, or perhaps someone dear to you can’t be around for you for much longer. In any case, you are sure to feel some level of sorrow, which is perfectly acceptable. By making sure you care for yourself and process your emotions, you can be more compassionate for the person in your life who is soon to leave. Neglecting yourself and your emotional state can lead to an unhealthy outlook on yourself and make you not strong enough to offer company or support for your loved one. Sacrificing your mental health will hardly help anyone and will only hurt you; reaching out to support groups or therapy can benefit you, which is beneficial to helping your loved one. A loved one in decline might want to feel supported, listened to, empathized with, and loved, and that can be hard to do if you feel lonely, angry, or sad. A good way to strengthen emotional attachment in the final times of their life is by spending valuable time together where you both can feel the love and presence of each other. Being in tune with your feelings and theirs is important; find empathy and compassion and let them know you are by their side and that they aren’t alone.
People undergoing decline might feel distant and withdrawn from others but let them know that you are there for them and love and support them unconditionally! Sometimes, letting someone in decline self-isolate can be more degenerating for them, as their emotional well-being can take a toll on them physically, psychologically, and spiritually. It can be nice to show your support and devotion by offering words of affection or encouragement, asking them about their feelings deeply and thoroughly, being available in their times of need, validating the ways they might be feeling, and trying to cheer them up accordingly. These steps take time and are very delicate and personal, so don’t be hard on yourself if your efforts aren’t received accordingly. Remember that they are going through a hard time, and it will be hard to process others’ interactions with them. Being emotionally supportive and available is important to both you and your loved one, and it will make things a little easier for you both.
Your emotional support for someone doesn’t necessarily mean expending yourself; you can also motivate them to help themselves. Showing them indulgence and sharing love can make them feel more inclined to support themselves emotionally of their own accord. Letting them feel self-sufficient can be rewarding and help their well-being and bring them peace of mind.
Of course, support doesn’t have to be exclusively emotional. Physical and practical assistance is beneficial and sometimes even easy to do. If your loved one is in physical decline and relies on help to execute daily tasks like eating and getting dressed, you can assist them. These moments together can be helpful to your loved one and become warm memories you form with them. These small snippets of the day can easily become something amicable or memorable, and the time spent together is not only for them to be physically helped but also socially and emotionally engaged. Sharing physical assistance is also a silent demonstration of support and lets your loved one know you are there for them. You can help by rearranging their living space, tidying up, preparing a bite to eat, getting them their favorite books or things of interest, and running errands for them. While some tasks are not always easy to help with, it’s important to be patient and caring, and your loved one will appreciate you!
Your time with your loved one is sensitive, temporary, and precious. It doesn’t all have to be spent in servitude – have fun together! It can be therapeutic and heartwarming to show companionship and simply hang out sometimes. Indulge in happy moments together and find fun things to do together, or even have some fun reminiscing conversations, such as looking through old photo albums and exchanging sentimental stories involving one another. Creating a scrapbook containing mutual memories and sentimental objects would also be meaningful! Even gift-giving is a heartfelt token and can help the personal relationship feel more tangible to someone in decline. If you want something to make the relationship more tangible for yourself after your loved one becomes less accessible to you, you can try activities like vlogging or letter-writing that leave you with sentimental things from them after they have passed. Additionally, going on walks together can be a calming and serene activity that uplifts spirits, and there are many activities in nature that can leave you and your loved one feeling lighter and more content. Making time for your loved one and sharing special moments with them is always meaningful and goes a long way.
And no matter what activity you choose to do, be fully present! Show your loved one that being around them is enjoyable and engaging for you and that you are happy to be there. Participating with your full attention also helps you build vivid and sentimental memories, so avoid distracting devices and thinking about irrelevant worries when you are with them. Remember, time together doesn’t always have to be about deeply emotional points or reflecting on your decreased time with them; it’s perfectly okay to have lighthearted fun and watch movies or play silly games. Do whatever is enjoyable for your loved one, whether it be a crafting hobby or a deep discussion. Involving them in things they enjoy lightens their spirits and rejuvenates them, and you’ll likely find yourself happy to see them happy. You might find yourself glad later down the line to have had some last beautiful memories with someone you love. After all, time together is time well-spent!
These above suggestions are all personal, emotional, and sentimental, so now let’s discuss some steps you can take on a more situational premise. Remember that palliative care and hospice workers are professionals involved intricately with the current life of your loved one and that they care and are here to help! You might find it helpful to coordinate with them and see what you can do for your loved one on a scheduling basis or in medical and non-medical ways. As their healthcare workers, these individuals will get to know your loved one from new perspectives and can offer helpful advice that caters specifically to their/your situation. They might have important information regarding lifestyle or behavior that can help.
Additionally, you can research the condition your loved one is undergoing on your own accord and be familiar with what they are going through. Knowing about their condition can make you more empathetic to their pains and concerns, and they will feel glad to see an initiative in your care and support for them. In some cases, it can help you feel less afraid of what is to come and you can learn what to expect and how to get ready for it.
Times like this are rarely easy to navigate, but know that you have support! Appreciate good moments, make the most out of them, and enjoy the love you share with others. Don’t be hard on yourself if it gets rough, and be mindful that everyone is different, and some people might require more or less connection during their decline. If you ever need help, you can always reach out to Lenity Light Hospice. We are here for you!