It’s OK, though. The staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care know that there are going to be moments when patients are stoic, optimistic, even curious about what the next stage will bring. Then there are moments when the same person is absolutely terrified, regretful and just sad to be leaving so much behind.
“What happens to us after we die” is one of the biggest questions that has plagued humankind for thousands of years, through all sorts of diverse cultures and faiths. Do we get a reward or a punishment? Do we come back for another try? Or do we just stop, like an old wind-up toy?
It’s natural to ask these questions in moments of uncertainty, especially when there is little time left.
At the same time, people also tend to wonder about other things like how will we be remembered? What will happen to our families when we’re gone? Who will take care of our stuff?
All these items bouncing around are certain to cause some degree of anxiety. It may be noticeable, or in other cases all of these fears and concerns may be bubbling in your subconscious, sometimes showing up at unusual times or in unusual ways. These worries can keep people up at night, make them nervous and edgy, and generally restless.
Loved ones or caregivers to people with this end-of-life anxiety are likely eager to find ways to help them out.
Listening to their fears and concerns is a good starting step. Even someone who hasn’t been especially religious earlier in life may begin to be interested in the topic now that their time is limited.
They also may enjoy discussing opportunities that their legacy can be remembered, whether it’s something specific included in their estate or bequest, or general advice and wisdom to pass on to other generations.
Hearing that family members will also work to keep their memory alive and tell their story can be satisfying. Equally reassuring to someone concerned about leaving people in a lurch will be discussions that family members will be OK.
But the act of taking time to listen to someone facing end-of-life can go a long way in helping their peace of mind and quality of life.
Listeners, especially family members, shouldn’t necessarily expect anything dramatic or revelations. But being there and attentive can go a long way to helping reduce someone’s fear and uncertainty.
Listening is a skill that many in the health care field are encouraged to do more of to help their patients relax, minimize their stress levels and enhance their attitudes, which can promote good healing.
Likewise, too much anxiety and stress for too long isn’t healthy and can contribute to unhappiness and depression, which can aggravate health conditions and weaken the immune system. It can also speed up the metabolism and make people feel threatened. This state can lead to fear responses, including high blood pressure.
Beyond being there and listening, there are other ways that loved ones can help decrease someone’s anxieties.
You can encourage them to get a massage, which relaxes muscles, decreases stress and generally makes people feel good. (We can help!)
Or you can find some other items which can assist, including a weighted blanket. This can be warm and effectively covers someone and creates a sort of a cross between a big hug and a cocoon.
People say it gives a feeling of being insulated from other sensory distractions and can be quite relaxing.
For whatever reason, many feel relaxed with soft textures, whether it’s a favorite sweatshirt, throw or quilt, or even the covers. Many kids also have their favorite stuffed animal or security blanket.
Weighted blankets have been used in hospitals for years since many medical officials found that they can help get people to relax and decrease sensory overload. Now, they’re becoming popular, especially for those with anxiety.
People with anxiety also may enjoy doing something with their busy hands, such as crochet, cross-stitch or quilting. Otherwise, they’ll be more prone to do more destructive things with their hands such as scratching, rubbing their hands together or wringing their hands and fingers.
Although these can look disturbing, they’re generally harmless until people do it all the time or begin to hurt themselves with scratching or digging. People with dementia sometimes have problems halting this kind of behavior.
Others in this situation may appreciate something called Twiddlemuffs which is a sleeve or wristguard that can occupy people’s attention and high energy.
Each Twiddlemuff can include items like buttons or zippers, snaps or links, which people fiddle with while doing other tasks. The simple manipulative items can be soothing and relaxing, even fun to fiddle with either consciously or unconsciously.
These items can be found online or even created if someone knows how to sew a basic sleeve and weave some items into it.
Overall, the team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care will be happy to discuss strategies to help a patient relax and reduce their anxiety.