Woman holding hands with older womanHelping someone die the way they lived can seem like a lofty goal, but isn’t it what we all deserve?

Knowing what to say to a loved one in hospice care can be intimidating and frightening, but it’s important to show them that you care – even if it’s just with your presence.

Before your visit, prepare yourself emotionally by realizing that even though they may look different, they are still the same person you’ve known and loved. It may help to make a list of things you want to say to them.

What to say

It is important to remember that there is no “right thing” to say to someone who is dying. You don’t have to say anything elaborate or profound. Because hearing is often the last sense we lose in the dying process, they are likely to understand you. Consider these conversation topics:

  1. Story about your relationship: Your loved one may find comfort in the retelling of a story of your time together that was important to you.
  2. “I love you”: A simple “I love you” can be the most profound statement. Don’t forget to let them know how you feel about them.
  3. “Goodbye”: As painful as it may be for you to think of this as the final conversation with them, many people have remorse over the idea that they didn’t get to say goodbye.

Let your visits reflect your relationship

If your loved one was a private person throughout their life, chances are they will be that way in the dying process. People usually stay “in character” at the end of their life. If you had a light relationship, it’s OK to share funny moments you experienced with them.

Actions speak louder than words

Even if you can’t bring yourself to say much to your loved one, your presence alone speaks volumes. Nonverbal acts such as placing your hand on their hand, smiling at them, sitting close to them or playing a favorite song can mean more than any words you say.