As mentioned in an earlier post, grief occurs both in anticipation of and following a loss. Grief does not wait for a death to happen; it begins as soon as a person becomes aware that death may happen: when a life-threatening illness is diagnosed or a terminal prognosis is given. Family caregivers are in mourning too, well before the death occurs. They are coping not only with their own feelings of grief and loss, but also with physical and mental fatigue, and often feel overwhelmed with all the financial, legal, medical, and personal responsibilities associated with caregiving.
If you know someone whose loved one is terminally ill, you may be wondering what you might do to help ease their burden.
If you are in a position to do so, and if the caregiver is open to your willingness to help, you can offer to:
- Research the latest developments concerning the illness.
- List all the medical specialists conducting studies or research on the disease or condition.
- Locate local support groups related to the illness.
- Assemble a team of family, friends, clergy, neighbors, colleagues, care providers and community services.
- Have emergency phone numbers and important resources readily available (legal, insurance, medical, financial, home repair).
- Help the caregiver to find time to attend to personal and spiritual needs (nutrition, exercise, rest, sleep, participating in religious practices or services).
- Identify what needs to be done, and offer or find help to do it (errands, grocery shopping, household repairs and maintenance, transportation, housecleaning, prescription pick-ups).
- Follow the lead of the person who is dying, as an individual experiencing illness in a unique way, and choosing whether to openly discuss the illness and impending death.
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