10 Ways to Show a Terminal Family Member That They Are Not a Burden
According to research, as many 65% of people who are terminally ill feel that they're a burden to others, and those feelings can add to their suffering. When caring for terminal patients it’s important to see to more than their physical needs. You also should consider their emotional needs and offer assurance they are not a burden.
Showing a terminal family member that they are loved and appreciated rather than an encumberment is quite a straightforward task. The most effective ways are usually the simplest, as these 10 ideas show:
1. Be Present
Some people don’t know how to cope with the feelings that come with having a terminal family member, and so they avoid them. Others fear saying or doing the wrong thing so much that they also steer clear. Even though those people don’t intend to add to the patient’s stress and suffering, their actions could confirm feelings of being a burden.
This makes it all the more important for you to be present for your family member. You don’t necessarily need to say or do anything. Sometimes simply sitting in the same room while they watch TV or read the paper is enough.
2. Be Responsive
When spending time with your ill relative, let them lead the interactions. If they want to talk about the weather, their most memorable summer holiday, or anything else other than their illness, let them – even if you’ve heard the story 101 times before.
If they want to talk about their illness, listen attentively without interrupting them or offering advice they didn’t ask for. There’s a good chance that they just want to talk. If you can tell that they don’t want to talk about their health and that they don’t know what else to talk about, try to find safe topics you can both discuss. You could also encourage them to talk about their lives and remember good experiences and events.
3. Make A Care Package
A person who feels that they are a burden may also believe that others are helping them out of a sense of duty, rather than because those others love and care for them. Putting together a care package for your ill family member will let them know that you really are thinking about them, and you really do care.
You can include items such as an inflatable neck pillow and an eye mask, a pack of soft tissues, moisturizer and lip balm, a few of their favorite snacks, a notepad and pen, and any magazines or books they may be interested in reading.
4. The Power Of Touch
Being touched by another person can trigger the release of feel-good endorphins. When you spend time with someone who is ill, use the power of appropriate touch to let them know you care. Whether it’s a hug, a handshake, a reaffirming hand on their shoulder or upper arm or holding their hand it can make a world of difference.
5. Offer Real Help
There’s nothing wrong with letting your terminal family member know that they shouldn’t hesitate to ask you for help if they need it. However, if they feel like a burden, there is a good chance they won’t do it because it would make them feel more burdensome.
Instead of being vague about your offer of help, be specific. For example, if you know that they have a dog, offer to take it for a walk once a day or a few times a week. If you know they’re in a financially difficult position and you’re able to offer monetary or other assistance, do so. You can also help with matters such as their will, funeral expenses, insurance, or other concerns about their personal affairs. Look for practical ways you can assist and act on them decisively and without fuss.
6. Help Them Tick Off Bucket List Items
There’s a good chance that someone with a terminal illness has a bucket list, even if they do not call it that. Take the time to ask them about the things that they wish they could do before they die. If you can help them make those dreams a reality, do it. Helping them tick off one or more items can reinforce that they are valuable members of your family rather than a burden.
7. Do Not Leave Things Unsaid
According to Ira Byock, a physician who specializes in palliative care, there are four things that people who are in the advanced stages of illness want to hear from the ones that they love. Those four things include, “I love you,” “I forgive you,” “Please forgive me,” and, “Thank you.”
Obviously, the words you choose depend on the history that exists between you, and on the nature of your relationship. Say the words that are most appropriate for that, rather than leaving them unsaid until it is too late.
8. Use Technology
Your family member probably has a mobile phone or a tablet. Send them an occasional text message, make the occasional call, use a video call service, or post on their Facebook wall just to let them know that you’re thinking about them.
9. Cook Their Favorite Meals
Cook the patient’s favorite healthy meals from time to time and serve the food on the best plates, with the best silverware, and with a smile on your face. This small gesture can mean so much and it adds a real human touch.
10. Offer Reassurance
From time to time, reassure your family member that they are not a burden. Let them know you are honored and privileged to care for them and to help. Caring for the terminally ill is a great responsibility, but it can also be a time of learning about others, yourself, and the mystery of life and love.
Convincing someone who is terminally ill that they are not a burden may not be easy. However, if you reinforce that they are loved and valued, it could change things not only for them but for you and the rest of your family as well.