Supporting a Terminally Ill Person

Gwen Randall-Young

Psychology for Living

Supporting someone with a terminal illness requires empathy, patience, and understanding. It is a challenging journey both for the individual facing the illness and their loved ones. Below are some ways to provide meaningful support.

Offer a listening ear without judgement. Let them express their fears, concerns, and emotions without feeling the need to offer solutions or reassurances. Just being present and listening can be incredibly comforting.

Empathize by trying to understand what they are going through by putting yourself in their shoes. Validate their feelings and emotions, acknowledging that it is okay to feel scared, angry or sad.

Spend quality time with them, whether it is watching a movie, reminiscing about fond memories, or simply sitting quiet together. Your presence can provide comfort and reassurance during difficult times.

Assist with everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, running errands, or accompanying them to medical appointments. Practical support can alleviate some of the stress and burden they may be experiencing. It may be possible to hire someone to help with these tasks.

Respect their autonomy and decisions regarding their medical care and end-of-life preferences. Offer support in fulfilling their wishes, whether it is pursuing alternative treatments, seeking spiritual guidance, or preparing advance directives.

Provide emotional support by offering words of encouragement, love, and hope. Remind them of their worth and the impact they have had on your life and others’. Reassure them that they are not alone on this journey.

Take the time to educate yourself about their illness and treatment options. Understanding their condition can help you provide better support and communicate more effectively with healthcare providers.

Encourage them to engage in activities that bring them joy and comfort. Also, remind them to prioritize their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Seek support for yourself as supporting someone with a terminal illness can be emotionally taxing. It is essential to support yourself whether through friends, family, support groups, or counselling. Taking care of your own wellbeing allows you to be a better source of support for your loved one.

Sometimes finding someone close has a terminal illness can cause us to worry about our own health and mortality. Keeping up with annual physical exams and checking in with your doctor if there are new or unusual symptoms that persist, can help. If you struggle with fear of death that lingers, speaking with a spiritual advisor or a psychologist can help to ease that fear.

And finally, celebrate life with your loved one. Focus on creating meaningful moments and cherishing the time you have together. Celebrate milestones, accomplishments, and the love that binds you. Embrace the present moment and make the most of the time you have left together.

In the midst of uncertainty and sadness, your unwavering support and presence can bring comfort and solace to those facing a terminal illness.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning psychologist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books, CDs or MP3s, visit Follow Gwen on Facebook for inspiration.