What You Need to Tell Your Loved One
Let's face it. You aren't a mind reader. As much as you may think you know the other person, unless you are now dealing with a recurrence of that disease or have previously gone through a life-threatening situation similar to this new experience, there are bound to be some things you will need to know. Therefore, while it isn't easy to talk about the dying process, if you are going to be the best support person you can be, you will need to have some open discussions with your loved one.
But in addition to your loved one's need to be heard, open communication is essential if you want to save yourself a lot of emotional and physical energy. For example, when you take the time to discuss what he actually wants, you may discover you've been busting your rear end to do some things that are quite unnecessary — ;or at least not appreciated enough to continue doing them. Also, you may discover that what you assume he misses most since his diagnosis doesn't bother him nearly as much as something else to which you gave no thought. By knowing what he really misses, the two of you can better brainstorm to find a creative way to fill that need.
If you've often felt your communication skills weren't very good, you can start to improve them by asking questions to which you need some answers. Further, by being willing to communicate openly and honestly, you not only can better help him face the challenges of treatment and recovery, you will have a much better chance to maintain your relationship on a solid footing. To give you an idea of the kinds of questions you can ask, here are some suggestions:
- What would you like me to do for you?
- What outcome are you hoping for at this time?
- How much do you want to make decisions about your treatment by yourself and how much do you want me involved in your deliberations?
- Whom do you want to be told about your diagnosis and about how well you are doing?
- What kinds of visitors, activities and entertainment do you think you would find enjoyable when your energy is low?
- What are the particular physical changes from the disease itself and from treatment that you find most challenging or expect will be most difficult for you to handle?
- How would you like me to encourage you?
- What bothers you the most about your treatment and the medical personnel you have to deal with?
Just as you need to ask questions in order to learn some things from your loved one, he also is not a mind reader. You will need to tell him just how he can count on you. The following, therefore, are some of the kinds of statements family and friends can make to their loved one who is sick that are often very helpful:
- You can count on me to do . . . . . for you.
- I am willing to discuss your hopes and fears.
- I will to respect your privacy when you want it and will be here when you need me.
- I feel inadequate in my role as a caregiver as it relates to . . . . and I need your help to become a better friend, ally or caregiver.
- I feel shut out or distant from you when . . . . and want to work with you to find a way we can connect better despite the obstacles brought on by this frightening illness.
- I know I'm not always rational and I don't expect you to be rational all the time.
- I am willing to really listen to what you have to say.