What to say to someone in hospice

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Knowing what to say when someone tells you they or their loved one have signed on to hospice can be challenging. One of the reasons people don’t know what to say is because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Remember to speak from your heart and to be intentional with your words. For some, thinking about what you would want to hear from your friends if your loved one was on hospice can be helpful. Below are some examples.

“I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this.” Acknowledging that this could be one of the most difficult times for the family is important. “Tell me how you’re doing”. By offering someone the opportunity to express their feelings, you open the door for them to share as much or as little as they want. This approach prevents you from feeling like you are prying too much. If the person doesn’t want to talk, you can let them know you are available when they are ready.

“How is your family member doing?” The dying process can vary depending on the diagnosis and when the person began hospice care. By asking how the person is doing, you may learn that they are doing well or that they are in their final days. With this information, you can decide how often and when to check in with this person again to offer your support. “I am available to support you.” Often times, family members caring for the dying person feel overwhelmed and unable to attend to important daily tasks, such as doing the laundry, grocery shopping, or walking the dog. Offering your help is rarely met with a negative response. Sometimes it can be difficult for the person to identify what they need. By listing off some of the ways you can help, you are lifting a weight off of the person’s shoulders.

There are also things that we should avoid saying to someone with a loved one on hospice care. It is important to keep in mind that you may feel differently as an outsider to the situation. Educating yourself on hospice care may be helpful to you. “Why has your loved one given up?” Hospice is not a death sentence or a diagnosis. Hospice is a type of care available to people who have decided to not seek our curative treatment. In some cases hospice care helps a person get their symptoms and pain under control so much so that the person is well enough to go off of hospice care. “It’s going to be ok.” Saying everything will be ok implies that the journey will be pleasant or that the dying person will recover. Although hospice care provides comfort and support to the patient and their family, dying is often a challenging emotional experience. Instead, you could say, “I’m glad your loved one has the care they need to make them comfortable.”

There are many ways beyond words that you can provide support to someone that is receiving service from a hospice agency. Reaching out is almost always welcomed. Don’t be afraid to reach out. You can call, text, send a card, deliver a care package, or make a hot meal. If you or your loved one would like to learn more about hospice care, click here to read more. Lumina is an independent nonprofit hospice serving Linn and Benton Counties (Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, Philomath, Sweet Home, and more).