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How to improve the comfort of loved ones in palliative care

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How to improve the comfort of loved ones in palliative care
Resident holding doctor's hand
Palliative Care
June 17, 2020
minute read

Advice on how to help those you love when they reach palliative care

Having a loved one receiving palliative care services is challenging and difficult. It can be hard to know what to say or do, or how to help them. As Leigh Sales writes in her book Any Ordinary Day "You have a substance to your life if you've felt pain. You've got understanding, that's where compassion is. It makes you a deeper, richer human being."

But that doesn't make it any easier. There are things you can do, however, to help let your loved one know you are there for them. And, sometimes, it's the simplest things which can help the most.

MACG provides compassionate palliative care services. Using a personalised approach, we help our residents and their families take care of their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.

What you can do to help

Be there

It's a common human experience to want to avoid challenging emotions, but the best thing you can do for a loved one is to spend time with them. Palliative care nurse Nikki Johnston says there is no need to lower your voice or be sad all the time. She says the best thing you can do is "be there".

Activities which require little energy can help the most

When a loved one is receiving palliative care services, their energy levels may be reduced. There are some basic activities you can do with your loved one that will help their mood, while also showing you care. These include:

  • Reading books
  • Playing music
  • Sharing memories and experiences you've had together
  • Expressing your love for them

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your loved one who is dealing with a terminal illness is to sit with them without talking, and let them know you support them.

Seek the help of a professional

It's hard to watch a loved one suffer from a terminal illness. Sometimes, you may need to seek help from professional counsellors or psychologists for both you and your loved one. At MACG, we provide services for both your loved one, and you, to support their choices and decisions at this time.

Reach out to family and friends

You can't be expected to visit your loved one in a residential home all the time. Reach out to your friends and family and create a roster of visitation times.

Decorate their room with familiar objects

It can feel disheartening for your loved one to be away from their usual environment. But you can help make their room in a residential care home comfortable by decorating it with their favourite items from home. Sometimes, even something as simple as bringing their favourite mug for them to use can help.

How to talk about death

Discussing death is difficult. You might be worried about saying the 'wrong' thing to your loved one. But it's something that needs to be talked about. Clinicians who work with people with terminal illnesses say the following:

  • Some want reassurance: Some people receiving palliative care services are comforted that they will be loved right through to the end, and not abandoned.
  • Some want to talk about their situation: They may want to address the topic and discuss what your plans are for when they die.

Many are afraid and are seeking empathy and compassion. They may be ignoring their own fears. You can encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. And if they don't want to talk, that's okay, too. At the end of the day, all you need to do is let them know you're there for them.

Why choose MACG

We truly believe "home is where the heart is". Our warm and friendly care teams will support you and your loved one during this challenging time. We offer things like:

  • 24/7 support from our nurses and care teams who are educated in palliative care
  • Access to allied health professionals
  • Daily living support
  • Spiritual and pastoral support
  • Compassion and dignity
  • Grief counselling
  • Additional support for families and caregivers
  • Pain management

Based on the needs of your loved one, we can also offer lifestyle services such as:

  • Meditation and relaxation sessions
  • Cultural and social wellbeing
  • Physiotherapy
  • Pet and animal visits
  • Personalised music therapy programs
  • Sensory programs

We have homes in 8 different aged care locations in Victoria. We have a number of smaller homes which offer a homelike environment for our residents, and enables our carers to provide specialised care. All meals are made to the individual requirements of our residents and cooked by catering staff.

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