The Best Ways to Help Someone Dealing with a Terminal Illness

Even when a person you love has been seriously ill for some time, a terminal diagnosis can be a shock. Both you and your loved one are likely to experience a wide range of emotions while coming to grips with the reality of this devastating situation. 


During this emotional period, the grieving process often begins, but you’ll also want to be there for your loved one to help them deal with the reality of a terminal illness. 

Get Support For Yourself

Providing support to your loved one is important, but you’ll need emotional support too. You may want to talk to a counselor to talk about your feelings and any fears you might have particularly if the person is very close to you, such as a spouse. 


There are also financial and legal matters that will have to be addressed, along with a discussion about end-of-life care and funeral plans. When you’re better supported, you’ll be in a better position to support your loved one in turn. 

Talk To Your Loved One About What They Want

Remember that everyone has a different reaction to a terminal diagnosis and how they’d like to live out their final days. While you probably want them around as long as possible, don’t put your own desires first. Approach the topic gently, discussing what they’d like to do and if they need help with anything, including healthcare, financial, and legal paperwork.


Some of the other topics to consider are what they want at the end of their life. Is quality of life more important than extending the time they have remaining? Do they prefer spending their final days at home? Would they consider hospice care?Do they have concerns about getting care that’s too aggressive? 


Simple questions like “What are you thinking?” or “What would you consider a good death?” can be helpful depending on their receptiveness and comfort level.

Help Them Fulfill Their Wish List

What would your loved one like to do in the time they have left? Is there someone they want to see or talk to? A place they’ve always wanted to visit? Try to make as many of the things they’d like to do possible. If they are too ill to travel but want to see a loved one who is far away, arrange a video chat. If there is a wedding or another special occasion they won’t be able to attend, see if it can be live-streamed.

Share and Preserve Memories

Talk to your loved one about the memories you have together. You might create a legacy video or life journal to save them for future generations. Go through old photos, ask them to share childhood memories, and maybe even take them to visit an old neighborhood. 


Leaving these stories can ease some worries about passing, allowing them to feel as if there will still be a part of them that remains long after they’re gone, and there will. 

Just Be There 

One of the most important things you can do is just be there. If they’re hospitalized or in another type of care facility, bring them items they might want, like books to read. You might listen to music you both enjoy together, watch your favorite shows and funny movies, or simply hold their hand. 


Your presence can make a dramatic difference in brightening their day as a terminal diagnosis can be extremely isolating. 

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