Caring for the dying is the easy part….

Caring for the dying is the easy part….

Life & Death Matters Post

Time and again I have heard people say, “Caring for the dying is the easy part… It is caring for the family that is difficult”. I quote this, not to diminish the importance or the complexity in caring for the dying, or to criticize family and loved ones, but to identify how difficult the experience can be for family to care for a family member,  a loved one who is dying.

Elizabeth Causton suggests that we can facilitate therapeutic conversations by developing greater awareness and skill in

  • expressing empathy,
  • showing respect for personal timing,
  • building trust and
  • validating personal experience.

I think of how a family member is greeted and welcomed when their parent is admitted to a facility.  Simple statements can help facilitate therapeutic conversations:

“Welcome to ..(LTC)… residence. We are glad that your mom has come to live here… But, I wonder how this is for you… I understand that deciding to admit a loved one to a care facility can be one of the most difficult decisions, and that bringing a loved one to live in the facility can be one of the most difficult days in ones’ life.  How are you doing? ….  You are welcome to phone us to check in on your mom, see how she is doing… you can call night or day.  We are here to support you and to support her….”

Expressing empathy, validating personal experience go a long way toward building trust.  This can happen in simple but significant interactions.  It does not take hours to establish trust.

(For support in developing the awareness and skill, join Elizabeth in the online course “Compassionate Communication” in October. )


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Courtney Murrell is a PSW who works in hospice palliative care.

When she is not at work, she is spending time with her family, going on hikes or writing. Courtney is a lifelong learner and loves to share her passion for writing as a wellness practice.

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