Ten Things a Dying Loved One Might Want You to Know

1) You don’t have to be a hero. Let’s face it! As caregivers, we wish to help. Unfortunately, the line between being altruistic and becoming a rescuer is thin.

2) Keep your anxiety to yourself! We often talk about how patients/loved ones displace their emotions onto us. Well…caregivers do the same. How do we know when we have dumped our anxiety onto another? When he or she says what we want them to say.

3) Live! I can’t tell you how many times hospice patients told me how they would take life lighter if they could do it all over again. Unlike today’s popular priorities, the wise tell us to have fun, laugh a little, smile at your neighbor, and enjoy the simplicity of life.

4) Death isn’t so bad after all. Who is really uncomfortable with death? Perhaps our strong opinion to make patients/loved ones participate in things they don’t wish to do—eat, play bingo, get out of their room—is our own uneasiness about sitting in silence awaiting the inevitable.

5) Stop telling me not to worry! Those transitioning know much about their family’s dynamic—the good, the bad, the ugly. When they worry about what will happen to so and so when their gone sometimes has merit.

6) Be honest with me! People who are dying know they have little time. So don’t walk on egg shells by avoiding the “D” word.

7) Don’t tell me how to die! It’s nice to have services to create as peaceful of a transition as possible. However, some people don’t want to die period and will fight the journey all the way. Strangely, others are uninterested in a peaceful transition. At the end, let them choose.

8) Enough with the pep talk! Those who are awaiting their fate do not need shallow conversations about how it will get better.

9) Let me eat how I want! Diets and healthy lifestyles have their place. When one has little time left, give them chocolate ice cream or whatever sinful food they crave for.

10) I’m not hungry, darn it! Since birth we understand the importance of eating. However, one common complaint I heard in my years providing end-of-life care is how they feel forced to eat by professionals and family members alike.

Copyright by Kevin Quiles 2013.

Kevin Quiles

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Kevin Quiles, M.Div., M.A, has provided spiritual and bereavement counseling to elderly and dying individuals and their families since 1998. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1987 and attained a Masters of Divinity Degree with Emphasis in Counseling in 1995, before completing over two years of clinical-pastoral education under professional supervision. Quiles earned a Master of Arts Degree in Community Counseling at a CACREP accredited university and is now practicing supervised psychotherapy in the greater Atlanta area of Georgia, specializing in couple therapy, trauma, and grief. The author is also a member of the American Academy of Psychotherapists. His experience with thousands of patients in hospitals, assisted living facilities, and in their own homes gives him the insight and humility to write on the subject of spiritual care. The author has also penned six articles, including "Embracing the Elderly Patients' Wish to Die," and "Power Patterns within Professional Relationships." Dipped in a narrative format, Spiritual Care teaches the sacred art of end-of-life counseling to family members, students, volunteers, faith community lay and professional ministers, and therapists.

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