Dying well - how to support your loved ones

This article has been written by Hayley Rowson de Vares, our service manager at Sherdley Court.

For families and friends, supporting a loved one who is approaching the end of their life can be a challenging and emotionally exhausting time.

Death is rarely spoken about openly any more and we don't often talk about it at all, so it's natural to panic when we find ourselves with the impending loss of a loved one.

Nothing is more important at this time than listening to your heart and your feelings and ensuring that your loved one is cared for in a loving and holistic manner.

However, there are things that you can do to help maintain your own emotional wellbeing, whilst also ensuring that your loved one is supported in maintaining their own dignity and quality of life during their final days.

Here are a few things that you can do: 

Express your love 

Keep the channels of communication open by sitting and chatting with them if you can, play music that you both love, look through photographs or laugh at old memories together. Enjoy the time as much as you can. 

Let other people help you

Being faced with the death of someone close to you can be a frightening and disorientating time. This may be the first time that you have experienced this and no one expects you to have all the answers or to know exactly what to do.

It’s important to lean on people and also the services that may be available to support you. 

Sometimes friends and family members may not share their worries in order to avoid upsetting each other, psychologists call this protective buffering.

Whilst it may be natural to want to protect your friends and family members from worry, it is helpful to be able to discuss and share your feelings so that you are all able to support one another. 

Keep yourself healthy 

Make sure you look after yourself and take regular breaks just to sit in the fresh air and process your emotions. 

Ensure that you get sufficient rest. If you are staying with your loved one, take a pillow and blanket so that you can take a little nap if necessary. Take some healthy snacks and drinks to keep your energy levels up. 

Their wishes should be taken fully into account

If your loved one has made an advance care plan, this should be consulted in the event of their death.

If they have capacity, steps should be taken to ensure that the advance care plan still meets their needs and wishes. If they are able to make some of their own decisions, they should be supported in this even if their wishes are not necessarily what you think is best.

This is their death, try to find common ground and understand that these are their final choices. 

If the person has lost capacity, then it must be assumed that they wish to be cared for as stated in their advance care plan.

Areas in which they may have made decisions and recorded could include; legal and financial issues, organ donation, funeral plans, end of life care and how they would like to be remembered.