Patient Care 101: How to Deal with the Anger of Your Dying Loved One

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a woman in hospital room with dying relative

Terminally ill patients experience a range of emotions as they spend the last days of their life. Anger is one of the common sentiments and responses, and it’s not hard to see why. Some people feel that they’ve been cheated on by their illness, while others experience a loss of self-control over their inevitable end, and being angry is sort of pushback to what’s happening to them. This leaves family members wondering, how can you cope with the anger of a dying patient? More importantly, how can you help them? Here are some tips in dealing with your terminally ill loved one:

See the situation from their perspective

While it’s impossible to know what exactly the source of the anger is, observe and try to find out still what’s making them resentful. Family members often realize that it’s fear that’s fueling anger. Fear of dying, fear of leaving loved ones or unfinished business, fear of the afterlife, fear of being a burden to the family. If this is the case, try to sort through these different layers of anxiety, and reassure them that in the end, everything’s going to be okay. A spiritual counselor can help in bringing this kind of encouragement.

Other times, it’s the actual process of death, the slow decline of cognitive functions and the onset of delirium that’s causing emotional outbursts. In such instances, talk to their doctor for possible medications or therapies. For better physical and spiritual support for your loved one, consider putting them in a hospice in Indiana that offers holistic care for patients.

Be comfortable with difficult conversations

man holding his wife's hand in a hospital

A lot of family members try to avoid dealing with their dying loved one, cutting visits short or never really engaging with them when they do visit. It’s understandable, but you don’t want to get into the mess of heated discussions. Plus, it’s counterproductive not to talk to your loved ones just because you want to avoid upsetting them and yourself. The key here is to be a good conversationalist. No matter how unreasonable or illogical they sound, don’t debate. Instead, discuss. In fact, don’t answer; rather, ask questions.

Questions would let them reflect on how they view things and, at the same time, re-orient the tone and topic of the conversation. You may be initially talking about their anger towards a Higher Being, only to end with a lesson on believing in the good things even when bad things happen.

Maintain adult-adult communication

It’s easy to fall into the trap of infantilizing the patient when they’re upset. It’s sort of a coping mechanism of loved ones to be reminded that the disease isn’t their dying parent. This could quickly backfire, however, fanning further the anger your loved one is feeling. Terminally ill patients experience a sense of humiliation already with the loss of independence. Talking to them like children further disables them. Keep an adult-adult communication, as this will let them feel a sense of dignity even in their last days.

It’s common for terminally ill patients to feel anger. It’s the loved ones’ responsibility to adjust to the emotions their dying family member experiences. Take note of these tips to ensure a less stressful communication with your loved one.

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