When we’re caring for a dying loved one with a life limiting illness, we need support ourselves. This ensures we can be there for them. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be in a fit state to care for them.

Having support when we need it most requires us to manage those offering support to us. We’re the only ones who know how it feels to be us at this moment in time. When our time and energy is focused on caring for a dying loved one, only we know what kind of support would be helpful. A suggested process to identify who can help us and in what way is to:

  • Review which parts of the caring for a dying love one process we enjoy and which parts cause us most stress
  • Clarify what support we need to reduce the stressful parts of caring
  • Identify who we have in our network of relatives, friends, neighbours and local volunteers
  • Think about the support each person could easily offer us, using their natural skills and strengths
  • Match these offerings with the areas of support we need to reduce our stress
  • Ask these individuals for this specific support

Caring for a dying loved one

Whilst we’re caring for a dying loved one, we may need someone to help us through this process. Getting an objective viewpoint on our situation, network and what others can contribute, can really help.

Many of us will feel reluctant to ask for help. The key, in my experience, is to ask each person for something they can easily contribute. Something they would actually like to offer. Most want to help but will feel unsure what to do. They may be worried about making things worse. Being clear about what they can do to help, gives others the opportunity to deliver what we need. It also removes any worry of getting it wrong.

I mentioned in a previous blog about my friend who loves to cook. Recently, she cooked gluten free meals to support a mutual friend. She was happy to do this as it was easy for her to cook an extra portion on a regular basis.

Supporting those caring for a dying loved one

As a volunteer, I’ve done many different things to support carers – those who are caring for a dying loved one. I’ve always tried to help them identify what I could do, that would be of most help. Occasionally, I’ve not been able to help in the way they would like. In these cases, we’ve identified the next best thing I can do. I’ve helped with shopping, cooking, coordinating care and visits. I’ve also helped with housework and staying with their loved one whilst they take a well deserved break.

All these tasks I’ve been happy to do, as they are within my capabilities and time constraints. I’ve been rewarded each time by seeing the positive difference my support makes.

I’m also aware that at some point, it will probably be my turn to care for a dying loved one again. I’ll then be the one asking for support. Having provided others with support, I’ll be more aware of the options. And able to identify what I need to carry on caring.