By Deme Warner, LGSW
As we approach the one-year mark since the first mandated shutdown due to COVID-19, we have seen just how ever-changing life can be. With continuing efforts to keep up with regulations, finding new ways to stay connected with our loved ones, and attempting to maintain our own health, we are all finding our way through this ‘new normal.’ Through all the changes, life continues to march forward into unexpected circumstances.
As one of the social workers with Hospice of the Panhandle, I primarily work out of our Hospice of the Panhandle inpatient facility where we receive patients in various stages of their lives, with equally varying diseases, prognoses, and symptoms. Our staff work 24/7 to ensure their comfort, providing the needed education, and supporting our patients and their families through their journey. Hospice of the Panhandle staff have extensive knowledge of the dying process and know the signs and symptoms to expect as someone is nearing the end of their life. However, just as life can be unpredictable, death can also be equally as unpredictable.
The most common question
As many families, friends and caregivers are faced with the unfortunate reality that their loved one has a terminal illness, the most common question I am asked in reference to their loved one is, ‘What do I say to them?’ It’s an important question as we never know if this may be the last conversation or final goodbye with a loved one. It may seem easier to avoid this conversation as there is no simple way to say goodbye, but this only postpones the pain and could lead to feelings of regret.
With Hospice of the Panhandle services, you are not alone in navigating these difficult, but necessary conversations. As each patient is assigned a social worker, it is our role to support and guide you, but also to remind you that you know your loved one best. This conversation is just as much for your loved one, as it is for you. Consider what your loved one needs to hear and what you need to say to feel at peace. Consider the impact of your words and the message you want to convey to them. Your words have the power to bring your loved one comfort and reassurance as they are going through one the most vulnerable times in their lives and entering the unknown.
You don’t have to wait.
Goodbyes are at times inevitable; however, you don’t have to wait for goodbyes to say what is in your heart. Take the time to re-read the above paragraph, but instead of thinking in terms of goodbyes, use these tools for the present. The beauty of living is that we continue to have the opportunity to share stories, make memories and say what is in our hearts. We have the choice every day to impact someone with our words. The choice to share a compliment, a laugh, a favorite memory, an apology. The choice to speak kindly and truthfully to one another. So while it is uncertain when we may be able to share a meal or hug one another safely again, our ability to connect with our words has not changed.
Deme Warner is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker with Hospice of the Panhandle. She has been compassionately caring for hospice patients for three years. Hospice of the Panhandle surrounds those experiencing life’s final months with expert, compassionate care wherever they reside. For more information about hospice care for yourself or a loved one, call (304) 264-0406 or go online to hospiceotp.org.