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The Present Of Your Presence: Tips For Visiting Someone In Hospice Care

by Brett Mills

Time with a friend, relative or other loved one can brighten the day of someone in hospice care, but for some, the fear of not knowing what to say, do or bring on a visit is immobilizing. Planning a personal call to that special person gives you time to equip yourself for the visit. Kind, compassionate attention is the best gift you can offer to someone in this meaningful final stage of life.  

Before You Go

Contact the loved one's spouse, child or hospice services provider to determine whether it is a good time to come for a visit. Ask whether any scheduled goings-on during the time you plan to stay, such as bathing or mealtime, might require privacy, so that you can plan accordingly. Find out if there is something specific you can bring that would be uplifting or helpful to your friend or her caretaker.

Upon Arrival

Greet your loved one as you normally would, such as with a hug, kiss on the cheek or a handshake. Make yourself noticeably comfortable by removing your jacket or pulling up a chair, so that he knows you are in no rush to leave. Mention that you are glad to see him and appreciate his company, assuring him that he does not need to entertain you in any manner.

Making Conversation

Talk about people you know, places you have been or even the weather. If you are comfortable doing so, hold your friend's hand or place your hand on her arm or leg as a gesture of love and comfort while you chat. Gauge her ability to converse and avoid asking too many questions if she seems tired or strains to speak.

Offer Caring Assistance

Ask your loved one if there is anything particular you can do for him. If he does not have any requests, suggest a few items, such as reading to him, combing his hair or playing a game. You might also bring a video, CD or album with a favorite show or movie, beloved music or family photos, asking if he would like to look or listen to these with you.

Listening and Companionship

Take cues from your friend to determine how to spend your time. Allow her to talk about anything on her mind, even if some of it is unclear or irrational. Stay by her side while she naps. Let her know how much she means to you and simply be present. Oftentimes, the reassurance of a loved one's company is enough.