Caring For A Dying Family Member

It takes a special person to undertake the task of caring for a dying family member. The decision to do so may not be easily especially when there are other family obligations or a career involved.

This is a special time in everyone’s life when the individual releases the physical, mental and emotional parts of his/her life and a caregiver, especially a family member will be impacted by this process.

Family Ties

The emotional ties of family makes watching the dying process difficult when you know that there is nothing to be done to make your loved one better or to prolong his/her life. You switch gears from fighting to preserve life to learning how to let go.

The tasks involved in caring for the dying are similar to caring for special needs individuals they involve giving a quality of life that is respectful of the individual with an emphasis on giving comfort without being overbearing. Unless the individual is in a coma or suffers from dementia their wishes should be honored regarding how to handle the process of death.

Emotional Patience a Must

Being a caregiver not only requires an understanding of the process of dying, but the patience to allow it to happen without unnecessary intervention. There are barrages of feelings to be expected while going through this process that include: anger, anxiety, courage, exhaustion, fear, isolation, love, sadness and wistfulness for the times past.

The exhaustion felt from physically caring for the individual may at time magnify the other feelings as lack of sleep can make it difficult to cope. This is why it is important to enlist the help of a respite worker or relief family member who will share in the care so that you can take a much needed break.

If it is not possible to have respite or another family member assumes total care for a while, then it may be necessary to place the individual in a temporary hospice or other care facility. It is imperative that for long-term end-of-life cares that the caregiver not go into depression or cause health problems for themselves.

There are many support groups that can be found locally through the medical staff caring for your loved one, through a community hospital, or mental health facility that offers respite care.

Dementia Complicates Task

If the person you are caring for is not just dying but has some type of dementia too, than the caregiver is doing double duty. The added responsibilities associated with keeping a person with dementia safe, are twice as likely to lead to caregiver depression.

Dementia symptoms that a caregiver will need to cope with are:

  • Agitation
  • Embarrassing conduct
  • Hoarding

These behaviors in the dying individual with dementia makes it an all-consuming time commitment that usually means not only less sleep on the part of the caregiver, but less time with other family members, lost work time and less time to do personal errands that arise.

Many communities offer support groups for caregivers of terminally ill individuals, or those caring for special needs family members. Support can come in the form of meetings, brochures, respite or workshops that teach coping skills for caregivers.