By late life, most elders and their families recognize that life must come to it natural end. Often, the longer the journey, the more comfortable our aged parents become with the idea of death. Dennis McCullough, author of “My Mother, Your Mother,” feels that being fully engaged through all the preceding stations of Late Life builds the emotional and spiritual capital to support ourselves during the Station of Death. Caregivers are better prepared for “closing the circle of life.”
Care for Active Dying
Weigh the pros and cons of the locations of dying and the family work entailed with each choice. If your loved one must remain in a hospital, palliative care services focus on symptom relief without excessive testing or intrusive methods.
Know the difference between what is convenient and efficient and what is humane for the elder.
Remain present through the end of your parent’s life. By staying connected, you will experience the “ceremony of passing life to those who remain.”
Protecting the Elder
Get comfortable with how to handle visits and calls from supportive friends. If the time is not right, offer to meet at another time.
Know “how much visiting is too much.” Be aware of the elder’s responses, act as a gatekeeper, and guide activities to get the most quality out of those remaining days.
Let the elder admit to the anxieties surrounding death. Create a calm environment with gentle touch, soft music, and pleasant words.
Support at the End
The additional care needed by a dying elder can mean dealing with new faces. Keep the elder’s support system visible by introducing yourself to the new doctors and attendants.
Ask local religious professionals for their involvement and draw on their support.
Contact a funeral home in the final days before death, and meet the people who will help your family after your parent’s death occurs.
Working with Medical Staff
Medication in the final days “creates a positive sense of comfort for the dying elder.” If your parent is not comfortable, talk to the physicians and nurses to make sure that your goals are achieved.
While some may find comfort in the hums and clicks of medical machines, the sounds can draw attention away from the dying elder. Consider paring down machinery at the bedside.
In the final days, physical needs will be met by others. Share nursing care with professionals, and the “memory of your hands-on care will long remain with you.”