Caregiving at the end of life may be the most important thing you ever do. There is an urgency in care giving. In these last days, you want to show your love by being there. As time becomes short, you may decide to “rest when it is over.”
You are as important to the dying individual as you think you are. So if you want to be there until the end, recognize that caring for yourself is a task as important as any other.
You also need to allow yourself time to grieve. Grieving is a process and it begins before death. “Grieving when it is over” means your physical and emotional health can suffer when your grief is finally faced.
So how do you avoid feeling exhausted, afraid and alone? You will have these feelings, at least sometimes. But here are some suggestions that may help:
1. Prepare a task list and when someone offers to help, say yes.
2. Don’t let your needs be invisible, ask for help.
3. Find at least one person you can lean on, talk to and cry with.
4. Consider hospice.
5. Don’t be brave to the point you deny your own feelings.
6. Honor the emotion of others but prioritize and focus on what you must do. You cannot provide emotional support for everyone.
7. Understand the dying process. If you don’t use hospice services, make sure you talk with medical professionals so you know what to expect.
8. Accept that even with the best intentions and a wonderful support system, care needs may be too complex to manage at home.
Caregiving at the end of life is uniquely challenging. Make self-care and time for grief as important as the other tasks that you have to do.