Chapter 4: At the bedside

Other conversations around the bed

The palliative care expert says
Description to come(3:22)Video transcript

I realized that I had no energy to facilitate their relationship with her. That was hard.

If we assume that the person who is dying has some awareness, then we should also be sensitive about the nature of bedside conversations. It may be best to speak outside of the room when discussing topics that might have upset the person when awake, such as frank discussions about how soon death is likely to come. Disagreements or conflicts are better dealt with away from the unconscious person’s bedside as well.

There may be tension among family members as they try to sort out what the person’s death will mean to them, or what life will be like after the person is gone. If family members are arguing or strongly disagreeing about an issue, you might consider holding these discussions out of the person’s hearing, since they may add unnecessary stress to the person’s life.

However, if your family has always held intense discussions when you get together, changing your normal pattern may leave the person feeling left out or more isolated. A good thing to do is check with the person. You might say something like, "We’re talking about some pretty intense feelings. We don’t want to burden you with this, but at the same time, we don’t want to exclude you if you want to participate." Deciding when to include the person who is ill is a bit of a balancing act because difficult discussions may require a lot of the person’s energy.