Finding meaning

Why Me? Why my husband? Why my mother? I’m too young to die… I’ve not done everything I want to

You won’t know the answer to any of these questions, but what you can do is listen and try to help the person make sense of their life.

Making sense of a life limiting illness is incomprehensible to anyone; when the diagnosis is given most people will start to try and ‘make sense of their life’.

Helping them prepare

  • get them to talk about their life and their family lives through stories
  • suggest they leave a legacy box with important items and letters
  • create a notebook of what ‘their’ good death will look like

Hope is not lost

  • although in the case of a life limiting illness, where death is inevitable it is more to do with enabling choice, shared decision making.
  • let the individual know that they have the ability to have control over their circumstances
  • you are not removing hope, you are refocusing it realistically on things that can be done

Staying human

  • we hear a lot about dignity being lost in end of life care, stories of dying patients being left undressed or unclean
  • preserving our individual identity is so important when we are dying, we cling to who and what we are
  • always treat the person who is dying as any other patient, so even if they are unconscious/in a coma, explain to them what you want to do e.g. unbutton their pyjamas to access the syringe driver and ask if that is alright, before you touch them, just as you would for a patient who is conscious.

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