Caring for a terminally ill loved one is a life-changing and emotional experience. Caregivers
understandably get caught up in the daily care of the person who is terminally ill. Yet, many
caregivers are related to those they’re looking after. It’s easy to forget that the other family
members are hurting too. Feelings of sorrow, depression, and denial are typical signs of
anticipatory grief. Separate from typical grief, family members experience anticipatory grief
when imagining life without their loved one.
If you know a caregiver going through this experience, it can be hard to know what to say. A little
extra effort can go a long way. Not only will your help lift a burden for the caregiver, but their
hurting family will also certainly appreciate it. Consider helping a family by providing help in
these five ways.
1. Supply dinner for them
Whether it’s making a home-cooked meal, delivering take-out, or supplying restaurant gift cards,
covering meal time is much appreciated. By removing the task of food preparation, you have
given the caregiver more time to spend with their dying loved one and less time in the kitchen.
Not only that, but you’re also showing the caregiver that they have your full support.
2. Sit with the dying
Simply sitting with a terminally ill person can greatly help a carer. While they take care of an
errand or clean up the house, sit down and be present with the terminally ill person. They could
be experiencing physical pain or emotional distress while dying at home. Hold their hand if
they’re okay with it. Talk to them and have a conversation if they’re able to. Let them know you
are there and that their loved one is getting a much-needed break.
3. Watch the children
If a caregiver is responsible for both caring for a dying loved one and caring for children, they
can become overwhelmed and constantly diverted from the task at hand. Offer to watch the
children. Invite the children to your home to do crafts. Take the children out for ice cream. Help
the children with their homework. Be kind and follow their lead. They may want to talk about
their loved one, or they might just appreciate the distraction.
4. Help with the daily chores
Many caregivers understandably prioritize palliative care over housework. Gardens become
overgrown, kitchen sinks overflow with dishes, and refrigerators remain empty. You can help
with all that. Offer to run errands or handle some chores for the caregiver’s family. Mow the
lawn, weed the garden, chop wood, help with groceries, and assure the caregiver that their
home is being cared for.
5. Cultivate Hope at Home
A palliative caregiver is a strong person. But they’re still human, too. Sadness may fill the home.
Improve the family’s emotional and physical health by providing caregiver support. It could be
talking to them at the kitchen table about how they’re feeling. Or it could be bringing a few
community members over from the local church. It may also mean turning on the radio and
singing along to an old song that everyone likes. A caregiver that makes time for themselves will
have a positive ripple effect on the whole family. The person dying at home will also appreciate
being infused with family life.