How to Support a Loved One Through Palliative Care

In the event of a loved one’s terminal illness, it can be challenging to support them. It may cause guilt or grief for those who feel helpless as they watch their loved one deteriorate.

Woman sick with the flu

Sadly only about 14% of people who need palliative care worldwide receive it, but the US is making great strides in making sure more people have access to this type of care and support when they need it the most at facilities such as Three Oaks Hospice palliative care services.

Many people use the terms end-of-life care and palliative care interchangeably; however, they are different.

Palliative care focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms, improving quality of life, and addressing psychosocial concerns. The goals of palliative care are to increase comfort, minimize suffering, and preserve dignity. This blog post will offer tips for supporting someone during this time in their life.

Follow their lead

A great way to show your support is to follow their lead. If you’re not sure what the right thing to do is, ask them. They might be feeling scared or upset, and you can help by listening without judging or telling them what they should do. The last thing someone in this type of situation wants is to feel frustrated with how they are dealing with their illness. Remember, you don’t have to fix it, be there for them.

  • Ask how you can help.

Don’t assume that they don’t need anything from you because they are not speaking up. Ask directly what you can do to help, whether bringing over dinner, doing some laundry, or spending time together watching a favorite TV show. Even if you are not sure what will make them feel better, the act of asking shows them that you care about their well being

  • Share memories and tell stories.

One of the most complex parts of caring for a loved one who is terminally ill is knowing it won’t last forever. One way to ease any sadness during this time in their life is by sharing memories and telling stories about when the person was healthy.

Take care of yourself

Some people may find themselves with decreased appetite, trouble sleeping, or a lack of interest in activities that they enjoy. They may also be experiencing a sense of hopelessness or a loss of meaning in life. These feelings should be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible. Speak up if you notice these changes and encourage your loved one to seek professional help through a therapist or other means as quickly as possible. 

Those around the terminal patient need to make time for themselves and the person who needs support. Be sure you’re taking care of your mental health by looking after yourself physically – eating well and getting plenty of sleep can help anyone through difficult times.

Be clear that you understand what is happening.

This can be difficult to do, but it’s essential to make sure your loved one knows you understand what is happening. This can help them feel less alone in their situation.

It’s also essential to make sure they know you are there for them and have an open ear if they need to talk about anything. They may have fears or worries that they need to discuss without feeling judged, so offer the opportunity for them to say what they need to say.

Offer physical support by doing things with your loved one that they enjoy, like taking a walk outside, reading a book together, playing cards, or helping with chores around the house.

Palliative care is all about improving the quality of life for those with cancer or another terminal illness. This care involves easing pain and other symptoms and addressing psychosocial concerns. It encourages patients to focus on here-and-now activities rather than worry about the future. 

The goal of palliative care is not curing but comfort and improved quality of life until the end of life. Be clear with your loved one that you understand what they are going through, and don’t hesitate to ask how you can support them during this time in their life.


The most important thing any person can do is to listen. When someone is hurting or in pain, you’ve got to be there for them.

You don’t need to know what to say; simply be there. This will show the person that they are not alone and that you care about them.

Listen with intent, not judgment; focus on their needs, not yours. Don’t try to fix everything right away; it’s okay if you don’t know what to say or do in this situation. Just accept what they’re talking about and let them lead the conversation. Ask questions if necessary to better understand the person’s feelings and how they might want support.

Talk about what matters most to them. 

It’s important to have a conversation with your loved one about what matters most to them. This will help you understand their needs and offer ways to support them better.

It can be difficult for people facing palliative care to see value in anything, so it’s essential to talk about what they do enjoy. Maybe this is talking about old memories or discussing their favorite hobbies. These topics may spark a positive connection with the person and remind them of what they still have going for them.

There are many ways to make someone feel better without doing too much. This can be as simple as bringing them some fresh flowers from the garden or cooking their favorite meal. Some people may enjoy a particular scent or type of music, while others may find comfort in food or TV shows.

Be there for them 

The best way to support a loved one amid palliative care is to be there for them.

It can be challenging to watch a loved one suffer, especially when going through a terminal illness. This can cause guilt or grief for those who feel helpless as they watch their loved one deteriorate.

That’s why it’s essential to be supportive and help them with anything they need during this time in their life. This may mean giving them a listening ear. Listening is often overlooked and undervalued, but it is an incredibly powerful gift you can give your loved one during this difficult time. Just being there and showing some love and understanding will go a long way in helping your loved one get through this challenging time in their life.

Say I love you as much as you need to

One important aspect of palliative care and what you can do for someone dying is to remind them how much you love them.

You may feel like you don’t need to say anything, but your loved one will always appreciate hearing that they are loved.

When they are in pain and struggling, the last thing anyone wants is to worry about what other people think. So, be honest with your feelings at the moment and make sure your loved ones know how much they mean to you.

Don’t be afraid of physical contact.

Physical contact can be a way to support your loved one. You can help them out of bed, prepare their meals, or even offer them a shoulder to cry on. Just be mindful of how you’re touching them. For example, if they’re in pain, massaging their back may not be the best idea. However, if they are comfortable with physical contact and want it, don’t be afraid to initiate it.

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