Nobody ever wants to face the fact that their own parents are mortal, but time has a way of revealing otherwise. If you are faced with visiting a terminally ill parent in the hospital, it's important to remember that a terminal illness is often not an immediate death sentence. You should act as though you may not have much time, but you may have a fair amount of time left with an ill parent. Keep these tips in mind when visiting a terminally ill parent in the hospital.
Tip #1: Be Gentle with Your Presence and Your Speech
When you are visiting your parent in the hospital, always approach them slowly and carefully. If they drift in and out of sleep in their hospital bed, they may be easily startled by people who come up to their bed at a fast pace. Talk with gentleness, too. Someone who is terminally ill may be going through any of the stages of grief at any time, and they may be dealing with emotions that are unfamiliar to them. Acting and talking with gentleness can ease the pain.
Tip #2: Let Your Parent Lead the Way in Talks of Death
Some terminally ill patients are fully aware of their own impending death, and they need to talk about it with their loved ones. Others prefer to see themselves as continuing to fight for the health right up until the end even when their diagnosis does not allow for any realistic hope. Allow your parent to set the tone for how death is discussed. If they never bring it up, you may need to be more direct about practical matters, but try to let them lead the way and let you know when they are ready to discuss death and their final plans.
Tip #3: Ask and Give Forgiveness for Past Hurts
There is inevitably friction in any relationship between parents and their offspring. Whether you are troubled by your past bad behavior or feel anger about things your parents did to you, those things can seem very small in comparison to the idea of losing your parent to the illness. You may want to just ignore past problems, but it's important to address them at least once. Don't leave anything unsaid. Let your parents know that you forgive them and ask for their forgiveness for things that have hurt them.
Tip #4: Lavish Your Parent with Love During This Time
A big regret that adult children often have is not showing parents how much they loved them. While your parent is still here, be sure to shower them with love. If your parent is not one to enjoy sentimental speech, write it in a card or letter. Say it even when it is uncomfortable. Do loving acts that back up your words. Do what it takes to lavish your parent with love while they are in the hospital.
Finally, keep in mind that parent-child relationships are never going to be without their complexities. However, the time that you spend with your parent when they are in the hospital with a terminal illness can be a special time when you both can be both kind and totally open with each other. Leave nothing unsaid, and this difficult time may be eased a bit for you and your parent.