April 2022

How To Support a Loved One With a Terminal Illness

We have some helpful tips on how to help a loved one facing terminal illness while keeping their wants and needs in mind.

Knowing how to support your loved one facing a life-threatening illness can be exceptionally overwhelming. Because every situation is different, there is no tried and true formula to turn to when helping your loved one feel comfortable during end-of-life care. However, there are ways in which you can provide them with support and care to promote calmness, dignity, and peace of mind. 

Anticipate Ways to Help

Asking your ill loved one how you can help can be overwhelming for them, especially considering they already have a lot on their mind. Additionally, those suffering from a terminal illness may find it challenging to communicate what they need. Instead of asking how to help, take the initiative to observe and anticipate how you can make their day-to-day easier. Helping can be as simple as taking out the trash or something more involved like creating a meal train or organizing for help walking the dog. Taking over the responsibilities of daily chores can help alleviate the daily stressors of your loved one’s life.

Don’t Prod About Their Condition

Patients who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness spend a considerable amount of time talking with doctors about treatments, prognosis, side effects, and more. They spend even more time thinking about it. When close friends and family are around, they want to feel “normal” and talk about other things. If the conversation naturally leads to their condition, listen but try not to press for details if they aren’t given freely.

Alleviate Their Fears

Some individuals facing the end of their life may have fears about death, leaving loved ones behind, or that they didn’t accomplish everything they wanted to. These fears are natural, and the best way to help is to listen and then offer consolation through reassuring words or a comforting hug. Remind your loved one of all the beautiful things they were able to do, bring along a photo album with memories, or share stories. You cannot change the circumstances, but you can bring positivity to the situation and provide solace. 

Create a Calm Environment

Many of those dealing with life-threatening illnesses feel more comfortable receiving care in-home instead of in the hospital. A home offers your loved one familiarity and comfort, whereas a hospital may serve as a constant reminder of their illness. If your loved one is confined to a bed or room, fill it with positive reminders and things they enjoy. Flowers, photos of loved ones, artwork, or music, can all immediately add familiarity to the environment, even if it is a hospital room instead of home. 

For those facing terminal illness, a support system positively impacts the precious time they have left. Simply listening and being there for someone is an act of love and kindness. While the supportive role may not always be easy or clearly defined, know that even small acts of aid and care can mean so much.