Stage Four, section 1: Resolving Relationships
Resolving relationships is one of the most important tasks for end-of-life caregiving.
Bonding affectionately with the care receiver can help make for a better grief experience following his or her death. It may be easier to bond if you tell each other what being related or being friends has meant over the years and share moments together when you are spouse, child, or friend again rather than caregiver.
Resolving anger and guilt helps a caregiver prepare for the eventual death of the care receiver. It is good to forgive your care receiver for past wrongs and for difficulties in your life caused by his or her illness. You also may need to forgive yourself if you feel you did not live up to your expectations or those of your care receiver, no matter expectations how unrealistic. You may need to seek forgiveness from your care receiver for things he or she felt you did wrong. For example, if he or she opposed nursing home care and you had to make that decision for your mutual good. It is important to realize that both of you did the best you could.
If resentment and anger are keeping you from expressing affection toward your care receiver during his or her last months, it may help to talk with people in your support group and to a counselor. For more information about support groups, see Stage Two, section3.For information about counseling resources, see Stage Three, section 1.
If your care receiver suffers from Alzheimer's or related dementia and no longer recognizes you, you may have worked on resolving your relationship before the disease progressed to this point. In your last days together, it may be worthwhile to share simple activities in the present moment. Music, a visit from a friend from the distant past, or looking at mementos from important times in your care receiver's life many decades ago may trigger long-term memories... or they may not. Even a person who cannot communicate may sense your presence, feel soothed by the sound of your voice, and enjoy your touch.
Just spending time with a person during the final days of life is a way to honor him or her. It is a gift of the spirit for the person receiving your companionship and may be one for you, also.