“The weariest and most loathed worldly life that age, ache, penury and imprisonment can lay on nature, is a paradise to what we fear of death.” — Claudio in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure
Years ago, when my mother cared for my dying grandfather, he expressed to her how much he feared the manner in which he might die. The assisting hospice aid assured my grandfather that odds were he would die in his sleep. This was of incredible relief to him. But in the end, he chose to wake after a full night’s sleep before proceeding to die. He was a strong and stubborn old man. So it was of no surprise to me that he wanted to chose when the end came, and know he was indeed at the end. All of us want control of our lives if we can achieve it. We all need peace of mind, especially when we are dying. At some point, all of us will begin to consider our mortality and take into consideration how death will come knocking.
With this in mind, I offer our readers six important ways to have the best possible death. We all want to give those we love everything we can to make life easier — and what more pressing time than that of death? As a caregiver, these are important points for consideration, to help insure that your terminally ill loved one dies in the best way possible.
1) Prepare for Death: Help them address both the physical changes as their body shuts down, and the often unpredictable emotional changes as they prepare to die and release themselves from their body. Family and friends will need to allow the dying to let go and make the transition into death.
2) Make Meaning of One’s Life and Death: This will be a unique journey that will vary for each dying person and may be influenced by gender, culture, religious or family beliefs, etc. Allow them to explore all aspects of this final process as they seek to understand and determine meaning in their life and death.
3) Physical Comfort: Offer the most comfortable conditions you can, considering the following possibilities: location at home or in an institution, a lovely environment including plenty of sun and air, the presence of personal articles, pain relief through medications and special beds to prevent bed sores. Touching can be bonding and offer relief during this time of suffering.
4) Maintain and Enrich Relationships: Dying often brings families together, nourishing relationships in special ways. This is a time to share what’s important for both the dying as well as the living. It will be a time to resolve unspoken thoughts and clear the air for the departing and the living alike.
5) The Necessary Control: With whom and in what ways does the dying person choose to share their end of life? Who will be present in the end? Where will they die and in what manner? The dying needs to have premeditated control over these factors.
6) A Personal Sense of Continuity: Work to help maintain a terminally ill person’s sense of continuity with herself or himself. Attempt to impart a sense of autonomy, even as your loved one loses control of normal physical functions and experiences some difficulty and suffering.
Another article we suggest: 12 Principles of a Good Death.