The last thing I remember about the night I slept at my aunt’s house is standing in the living room while watching my grandma crawl in to the hospital bed in which my grandfather had been resting for the past month.
The first thing I remember about the next morning is being gently shook awake by my uncle who was saying “Jen, your grandfather passed.” I was in shock. Just like that, he’s gone? The man who attended all of my soccer games and gave me a dollar after each visit was simply erased from the Earth?
The first part to coping when a loved one goes in to hospice care is understanding. Understand that those that go in to hospice most likely only have six months to a year to live. Understand that hospice is meant to make those with advanced illnesses more comfortable when treatments have failed. Hospice aims to improve the patient’s quality of life so that they can spend their last days appreciating the company of their loved ones without suffering through all the pain that illness brings.
There are hospice care facilities in which a person can make this transition. Or, the hospice care can be set up in one’s home. In my case, my grandpa started out in a care facility and then was moved to my aunt’s house so that he felt more at home in his last few months.
Though cliché, it is extremely important when a loved one is ill to appreciate every moment. Though it feels like the end, remember that you are still making new memories with your loved ones. By watching a movie, playing games, reminiscing on hilarious memories, looking at old pictures or any activity that brings joy, you are adding to your collection of memories and enhancing their time while fixed in the same bed for months at a time.
Another helpful activity is to document these times. Write a journal on the day’s events and a hilarious thing that someone said. Take pictures of those around, both posed and candid. Take a video of you and your loved ones with a message to your future selves. Make a drawing of some sort. Any type of media will do. When the person has passed, you will be glad that you took the time to document these moments.
The most important thing to remember during this time is that while they are in hospice, and even after they have passed, they are comfortable now and their suffering has come to an end. Be present in the moment and say what you think should be said, as it is a horrible thing in life to live with regret.