Caring for a loved one who is terminally ill is, quite possibly, the most difficult experience an individual will face in their lifetime. The process of death can be frightening for both the patient and you, the caretaker. As such, both individuals need to be aware of their emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs. You must be willing and able to attend to your needs, as well as your loved ones.
During this time, it is extremely important that you fulfill your physical needs in order to maintain the ability to care for your loved one. Many times, you will not feel hungry, but you must have regular meals in order to retain the strength you need to provide the necessary assistance to the patient. You will also likely lose interest in your exercise regimen. However, this is not only integral for your physical needs, but also for an emotional release. All in all, if you do not address your physical needs, you will eventually lose the ability to care for your loved one altogether.
Your emotional needs are paramount throughout this experience. It is certainly appropriate to enlist the assistance of a professional to help you process all that is going on during this heart-wrenching time. However, if you are not interested in meeting with a therapist, there are other ways to stay emotionally healthy. These include writing about your feelings, physical activity, other creative pursuits and practicing relaxation and meditation. Discussing your feelings with your friends and family members can also help you process your emotions, while meeting your social needs. It is also important to remain involved in as many of your regular activities as possible so that you do not become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caring for your ailing loved one.
Finally, and most importantly, you must look at the situation from a spiritual perspective. Regardless of your religious affiliation or spiritual beliefs, death is strongly tied to these areas. It is greatly beneficial for you and your loved one to address your spiritual or religious needs together. In witnessing your loved one find peace with their impending death, you may also do so.
Caring for a terminally ill loved one is a task that no one ever wants to take on. However, when this occurs, the maintenance of your own overall health is very important to your ability to nurse your loved one. You can utilize your knowledge of the importance of addressing your physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs to assist your loved one in these areas, as well. Take the time to care for yourself, because it is only then that you can truly take care of your loved one.