Death is part of life. However, it can be difficult to understand and cope with. Here are eight of the needs your loved one will have when dying and what you can do to help. 

1. Assurance. They need to know that they will be cared for and that you will not abandon them, even if things get difficult. Visit often, even if you don't think they know you are there. You can also send emails, cards, gifts, and flowers when you can't visit. Tell them when you will visit/write again so they know what to expect. 

2. Assistance. They will need help:

  • preparing and finalizing legal documents
  • going through belongings
  • contacting legal officials and family members
  • cooking and cleaning
  • running errands 

There are so many ways you can assist someone who is at the end of their life!

3. Medical Information. While there may be some things that they won't be able to understand, involve them in the decision making process as much as possible. Talk to them like the adult they are. When a doctor or therapist visits, include your loved one in the conversation as much as possible. 

4. Pain management. They will be able to relax and enjoy their last days more once their pain is managed. You can try alternative methods (like relaxation techniques, laughter, music, essential oils, distraction) as well as traditional methods.

5. Connection. Connect them with old friends and family, a therapist, a chaplain, and anyone else you can think of. Loneliness is common among the elderly but it doesn't have to be. Even a simple phone call can mean a lot to someone who is dying. It is very common for people to "visit" a loved one and spend the whole time talking to other visitors. Watch out for this and make sure everyone connects with your loved one.

6. Validation. Allow them to express all of their feelings, positive and negative. They may go from peace to anger in a matter of minutes. Listen without judging and allow them to move through the grieving process as they need to. If you are grieving, too, don't dump that on them. You can grieve together but you also need to have others you can talk to about it. 

7. Excellent care. They deserve to have comfort, privacy, low pain levels, timely meals, and high quality medical care. There are many wonderful elder home care services and hospice programs out there that are covered by Medicare. If you don't feel like your loved one is getting the care they need, don't hesitate to change services. 

8. Time. Even if their actual time is short, they need to have the time and space to:

  • reflect on their diagnosis
  • tell their story
  • reaffirm their identity and the value of their life
  • finish unfinished business
  • plan the distribution of their assets
  • connect with family and friends

Try to take whatever you can off their plate so that they have the time to do these things. 

It is important to be aware of these needs so that you can help meet them. You want this person to have the highest quality of life, even if the quantity of time is limited. Good luck!