Social Needs of the Dying Patient

Jillian Brasch | February 3rd, 2012

1096727374g8hoq1When a person is dying and confined to his home, or his bed, he will probably need help keeping in touch with family and friends. As a caregiver, there are several things you can do to help him. You may need to help him organize his address book, or program his speed dial. You might ask if he wants a supply of greeting cards and stamps. If he wants to send cards or letters, you may need to set him up with a lap desk, or prop pillows in his lap (and behind his back) and use a hard surface (like a clipboard or a large book) for him to write on. Or you may need to let him dictate the note while you write for him.

As a caregiver, you could set up Skype or help him with FaceTime if he wants to visit face-to-face remotely. You might help him with Facebook to reach a lot of people with a single post, or help him set up CarePages to reach everyone he wants to send a medical update to, and also reach out for help if he needs it.

Ask him who he would like to visit, and help him schedule times for friends to come that won’t interfere with hospice or other medical care. Hospice patients sometimes have visits from up to six or seven different hospice disciplines, and sometimes these caregivers visit more than once a week. Or if the dying patient is in a nursing home, the schedule can be even tighter. You may need to schedule visits around the nurse, home health aide, chaplain, occupational therapist, speech therapist, physical therapist, social worker, and/or volunteer. You also need to take into consideration when his energy levels are up to a visit, and be ready to cancel the visits for him at the last minute if he says he doesn’t have the energy.

A person who is dying still has many social needs. Often, they become isolated because friends are uncomfortable visiting. This is why I wrote the book The Last Gifts, and why I’m writing this blog, to show people how to use activities as a catalyst to a deeper conversation.

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