Caring for Loved Ones at Life’s End is (fill in the blank)
Our articles from Respect for Life Month continues with Life’s end care and compassion. Below is a synopsis of the article.
An old Irish proverb says, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” Indeed, we are created to depend upon one another and walk together in suffering. But when family members or friends approach life’s end, we may not know how best to “shelter” them. Here are some concrete ways we can compassionately care for them.
- Invite God In: As you enter into this season with your friend or family member, ask God to accompany both of you.
- Listen: Listen with a non-judgmental ear so your loved one feels free to speak openly.
- Inform Yourself: Seek to understand the Catholic Church’s teaching on end-of-life care, which can help you provide authentically loving support that respects life.*
- Be Steadfast in Compassion: The patient’s suffering can be alleviated by your empathy, as well as by quality hospice care by medical personnel.
- Help Them Achieve Closure: Help your family member or friend define the unfinished items in their life. Creating and accomplishing this list of unfinished business can help the person discover a sense of purpose and feel more at peace.
- Provide Opportunities for Resolution: You can help ensure a peaceful transition for your loved one by facilitating opportunities for reconciliation with others and for mutual expressions of love and gratitude.
- Reminisce: Think of other small comforts you can provide that would spark meaningful memories, like special photos or mementos.
- Provide a Peaceful Presence: Hearing can become very acute, so placing the phone in another room, playing favorite music, reading a favorite passage, praying together, or simply sitting quietly with him or her can all be very soothing.
- Show Tenderness: Those who are dying remain in need of the tenderness of personal human contact.
- Bear Their Transition Patiently: Try to be patient, and allow the “how” and “when” of death to be between God and your loved one. Ask God for the wisdom to know what final words to say—if any—and when.
Accompanying a loved one in his or her last days is enormously important, but we do not need to fear our own limitations.
*As our bishops teach, “Respect for life does not demand that we attempt to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or unduly burdensome.” At the same time, intentionally hastening death—whether through drugs or deliberate neglect of basic care—offends our God-given dignity and is never morally permissible. More information: www.usccb.org/ToLiveEachDay
 United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide, 10.
Excerpts from Morning Meditation © 2013, General Audience © 2016, Misericordiae vultus © 2015, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition © 2001 LEV-USCCB. Used with permission. Reprinted [Excerpted] from Respect Life Program, copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C. All rights reserved.
Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
View, download, or order the U.S. bishops’ pro-life materials! www.usccb.org/respectlife