After visiting a patient with re-occurrence who was in a rehab center, her husband was reporting that she was doing better. He thought that her pain was under control, she was eating better and was starting to walk more. When talking with the patient it was clear that she had enough. She was not any better. She was ready to shift goals of care. She did not want to “disappoint” her husband but she was tired and at peace. She had done what some people who know that death is near do. She had done a life review and made peace with how she had lived her life. She relied on her faith and was ready to die. The couple had many conversations over the years about what they wanted at end of life. She was ready, he was not.
When this happens, there are things you can do as the partner/ caregiver. A change of strategy is in order. This is probably one of the most difficult things you have to do. Take a deep breath and listen to your loved one. If he or she is tired of appointments, medications, exercise, nutrition, it is ok to let them be. When this turning point comes, the focus changes. It really becomes about the patient and how they want to live out their lives. Attempting visits with people they have not seen or enjoying their home and surroundings can be options. It is okay just to be in the moment and enjoy each other’s company wherever the surroundings may be.
How do you get to the point that you are both ready to face dying together? How do you say good bye? The starting point is to listen and hear what your loved one is saying- not what you want to hear. Respect their wishes and follow their lead. Enjoy the moments, savor your time, and create memories that will sustain you through the difficult days ahead.
“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It is the transition that’s troublesome.” Isaac Asminov