Things to Do with a Dying Person

| By Jodi Horton

1. Perform a life review and document it in writing, audio, or video.

Everybody has a story to tell, and you can help them tell it. Life review allows individuals to reflect on their accomplishments, to remember significant events, and to share their story with someone else. It might also be a good idea to help document someone’s life, in writing, with an audio recording, or a video recording. A record of a loved one’s life can be very meaningful to surviving family members, and help maintain a record of a family history.

2. Sort and organize family photos, heirlooms, and valuable memorabilia.

It’s easy to collect items over the years, some of which may carry great meaning and others that are a little less meaningful. And while some individuals are terrific at organizing, labeling, and filing away old photos, gifts, and other assorted things, there are a great many of us who are not terrific at it. Sorting through old family photos, heirlooms, and memorabilia can be a wonderful way to bond with a dying loved one. Like t he life review, it will allow the individual to reflect and share their life. For the dying individual, it might also lend them a little peace of mind to know he/she won’t be leaving something behind in disarray.

3. Learn something new together or from each other.

Learning can be an ongoing, lifelong practice. When spending time with your dying loved one, consider if there’s something new you can learn together. You could read a book aloud to a dying individual about a specific historical event or time period. Maybe there’s a documentary the two of you could watch together. Or, can you learn from each other? Maybe the dying individual was an amazing cook. Ask for his/her recipes. Let him/her guide you through the making of a dish, and then maybe you can share a meal afterwards.

4. Help him/her die without regrets.

This article shares the top five regrets a hospice and palliative care nurse said individuals most often express at the end of their life. Maybe there’s something you can do for your dying loved one if they have one of these two common regrets: “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” or “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

When it comes to expressing feelings, let the individual know it’s a safe space for him/her to share feelings, fears, and thoughts. Express your willingness and openness to hearing his/her feelings. Maybe they have some unexpressed feelings toward other loved ones. Ask if they would like to dictate a letter to send or leave behind for someone.

It’s easy to lose touch with friends as life happens and as people have families and move away. Is there a way for you to help a dying loved one get in touch with lost friends? Transcribe a letter or an email; locate someone via Facebook and the Internet; set up a video call using Skype. There are lots of ways to stay in touch if someone is willing to take the first step. Help a dying loved one to take that step.

For more information about hospice care in Tucson and the surrounding communities, contact Casa de la Luz Hospice at (520) 544-9890.

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