Caring for a sick family member can already put a strain on you. But caring for a terminally ill spouse is almost incomprehensible. You have to watch as he struggles through the pain, wishing you could do something to help but do not know what to do to ease his suffering. At the back of your mind is the ever-present thought that he can leave this earth anytime.
You feel helpless. You want to seek answers to a lot of questions. It is like sitting on a slow-ticking time bomb.
Here are some positive steps to ease your pain:
- Accept the truth. Learn to accept that he is going to die. This is the first step that will keep you to approach the next phase and take charge of your life from hereon.
- Resolve to help him live a high quality of life. Learn everything you can about his illness to better understand it. Be a step ahead. Learn to identify the symptoms as the illness progresses. Know what to expect and what can be done to manage it better. Create a stress-free home environment.
- Take an active role in caring for him. Have constant dialogue with his doctors. Your knowledge of his illness will help in preparing medication and equipment that he will eventually need.
- Enlist the help of children and close relatives. Providing care day in and day out can tax your strength, physically and emotionally. If you have children and close relatives willing to help, devise a schedule so they can take turns looking after him.
- Learn pain management. Develop honest communication with your husband. Teach him to tell you when he is in pain, how intense it is, where it hurts. Talking about the pain brings positive relief to you and your husband. Touch therapy also brings relief. Encourage him to tell you of his fears. Listening can also provide comfort.
- Let him enjoy the things he loves to do. Do not smother him. Allow him to do some of the things that he enjoys doing when he feels fine as long as this will not tax his strength. Make it doubly enjoyable by doing those things together.
- Build on the strengths of your relationship. Now is the time to have a closer relationship with your husband. Tell him the things you’ve wanted to tell him before and never did because of other distractions. Encourage him to do the same. Discover new things that you can do together despite his illness.
- Join a support group. Actively participate in group discussions with members. Talking with someone about what you are going through and receiving understanding and comfort from people undergoing the same will help ease your own pain. You can also discover what other people do to manage their own stress. You can also seek spiritual guidance and support.
- Learn to let go. When it is time, help him prepare for a painless journey as much as possible. Gather close relatives and friends and let them share some time together. Show him how much you love him and let him know that it is all right to let go too.
We do not want to lose a loved one, let alone suffer the pain of caring for someone terminally ill. The determination to approach the problem positively, accepting the problem, gathering the knowledge to manage the problem and the strength of your faith will certainly take a chunk out of the whole painful process of care giving.