to Support the Dying
is no “right way” to behave toward a dying person. There
are, however, some general principles that will enhance the
effectiveness of your support and make your time together more
the time preceding the end of life, the most important thing to
remember is simply to be there.
there consistently, as often as the dying person wants, and as
frequently as your time schedule permits.
contact on a regular basis over a period of time, so the dying
person will feel comfortable with sharing thoughts, feelings, fears,
wishes, dreams, and hopes.
more than talk. Follow the dying person’s agenda as time is
spent with them.
avoid Emergency Medical Services for a death in the home, it is wise
to talk with the physician prior to this as well as the funeral
home. Laws vary from place to place so it is important to have these
arrangements made in advance.
an appropriate time it is important to raise the issue of death
the actual time when it is clear that someone is dying, the most
important thing to remember once again, is be there.
most helpful things to remember are touch and talk. Touch and
hearing are the last two senses to diminish as one dies. Even
comatose and sedated people can hear and feel touch.
all times, the caregivers and family members need to explain to the
dying person what is being done and by whom. From fluffing a pillow
to changing the sheets, dying persons must be treated as though they
were fully aware of their surroundings. Let them also know who is in
the room; tell him or her who is touching an arm or patting a
shoulder. Remind them of the time and date.
not talk about the dying person in the past tense, as though already
deceased. This can be very upsetting for one who can hear but not
respond to the conversation.
is very important, especially during the hours and minutes
immediately preceding death, that arrangements be made for the
family members, friends, spouse, and partners to have time alone
with the dying - to hold, to touch, to say things one last time
before they part.
the death, whether immediately or long term, again the most
important thing is to be there.
attentive to family and friends without being obtrusive.
available to listen.
be reluctant to frequently mention the deceased’s name and
encourage reminiscing by family members.
maintain contact with the survivors long after everyone else has
gone back to their own lives.