Supporting Someone at End-of-Life
Supporting Someone With a Serious Illness and/or at End-of-Life
Caring for a friend or family member who requires palliative or end-of-life care can be challenging. You may feel overwhelmed, tired and scared. You may not know what to say, what to expect, or how to offer support…but there is a lot you can do, and you don’t have to do it alone.
1. Start by seeking out helpful information and resources.
The Canadian Virtual Hospice offers support, information, and articles on a range of topics such as: how to provide care at home; helping with medications, eating and bathing, and the changes people experience in the final days of life. Canadian Virtual Hospice: www.virtualhospice.ca.
St. John’s Ambulance offers The Home Caregiver Support Program, which provides information that addresses the needs caregivers face as they provide care for family members, or friends suffering from chronic or terminal illness within the confines of their own home. An introductory module explains the course and what palliative care is. This is followed by optional modules that speak to specific needs that are commonly present in palliative or hospice care. http://stlazarus.sjatraining.ca/
2. Connect with your local hospice.
Even if the person you are caring for is not at end-of-life, hospices are hubs of support for anyone dealing with a life-limiting illness. They can often help organise visiting volunteers, day hospice, and other supports, as well as offer information and respite for the caregivers. You can find information about local hospices and other supports here
3. Create a circle of care around the person you are supporting.
People often want to help but don’t know where to start or what to do. There are a number of resources available to help you organize care and support for someone who is seriously ill.
- Share the Care is a resource to help you organize a group for someone who is ill. You can order a copy of their book and/or you can access information from their website: http://sharethecare.org/
- Lotsa Helping Hands is a free online resource that can help you coordinate meals, visits and requests for help as well as share photos, announcements don’t feel, and well wishes: lotsahelpinghands.com
- Take Them a Meal is a free online sign-up sheet to coordinate meal deliveries to someone who needs it: http://www.takethemameal.com/
4. Be a Compassionate Presence.
Just being there for someone makes a difference. Show your concern for someone else by being truly present in the moment with them. Human beings have a strong physical and emotional impact on each other. Having compassionate presence requires us to be mindful of the energy and thoughts that we carry with us and bring to all of our interactions:
- Don’t worry about finding the perfect words to say. Share that you may not know what to say or do but that you care about them and will be there for them.
- Take your cues from the person you are supporting. Ask them how they are feeling, and find out what they would like to do with your time together. Would they like to go for a walk? Have a chat? Sit in companionable silence? Watch a movie?
- Don’t rush. Take some time to make sure you are feeling calm and able to offer support.
- “Listen with your heart” without trying to judge or direct people’s choices or emotions.
- If the person appears to be in and out of sleep, that is okay. They will know they are not alone.