Chapter 4: At the bedside
It was so hard to understand what he was saying, but I managed to pick out words here and there and piece them together. I think he felt at peace being able to say what he needed to say to each of us before he died.
If the person who is ill is conscious and able to talk and communicate, sometimes others in the room feel awkward about knowing what to say or how to act. Let the person who is ill control the conversation, and recognize the hints they may give that signal they no longer want to talk. They may say things such as "I’m feeling tired," or "I think I’d like to rest now." Not everyone will be able to put their experience with illness into words, and people who seem hesitant to explore their feelings should not be pushed into doing so.
Click on each situation below to read more.
Sometimes the person who is ill will want to talk, and you may find is difficult to talk with them. Below are some situations that can happen as a person is nearing the end of their life.
Someone who is nearing the end of their life may want to talk about what they’ve seen or accomplished over a lifetime. Listening carefully sends a message to the person that their words still hold value and that people still care about them. Sometimes the person’s words or meaning are not clear, and it’s all right to say something like, "I’m trying to understand, but I’m having trouble right now," so that the person knows you are taking care to listen. If the person is becoming frustrated because you cannot understand, family and friends can help by offering to bring up the subject again later, when things might be clearer.
Sometimes people who are ill may make comments about things they see in the room that are not really there. They may talk about what they are seeing or even speak to their hallucinations. If the person is not upset by the hallucinations, there is no need to abruptly correct them or point out there is nothing there.
Sometimes people who are very near death refer to people who have previously died, saying things such as "My father is waiting for me." In such cases, it is helpful to acknowledge this with supportive words rather than doubting or questioning the person. It is important, however, to tell the healthcare team if you notice that the person becoming confused, since confusion can sometimes be helped with treatment.
Visitors who can’t make sense of what the person says may want to share the words that have been spoken with other family members or friends. Family and friends can sometimes find significance in what the person has said, and these words may come to hold great meaning later.