Palliative care patients should pass away quietly, surrounded by those who mean the most to them. Sadly, this is not always possible due to restrictions on visitors or physical distance. In these cases, it is possible say goodbye to a dying patient over the phone.
Caregivers assisting the patient try to be as supportive as possible to families who are unable to be in the room when the patient's death is imminent. They may hold a phone to the patient, turn on a speaker phone, or even arrange for video conferencing tools when appropriate.
It is believed that hearing is the last sense to go, so it may be assumed that words can be heard even if the dying patient can’t respond or has lost the consciousness.
It can be difficult to know what to say in these final moments; but transmitting the following tips to the family can help them to say goodbye.
• Stay focused.
It is important to focus on the relationship. Block out anyone else who may be in the room or on the phone and talk specifically to the loved one.
• Take turns.
If more than one person is involved in the conversation, everyone should have a chance to say goodbye to the dying person.
• Say “I love you.”
These three little words express so much and provide great comfort; say them freely.
• Say “Thank you.”
When you thank your loved one, you are letting them know that they have made a positive impact in the world. Thank them for their love or things they taught you. This validation lets them know they will leave a lasting legacy.
• Ask for forgiveness
. Relationships are complex; if something significant is weighing on you, take the opportunity to apologize for your part in it. Accept ownership of your faults and try to repair the relationship or correct the situation. Know that your loved one may not be able to respond, or may respond negatively.
. Your loved one may ask for forgiveness for any pain they have caused you. Or they may be unable to speak due to physical limitations or their own lack of understanding. You can take an important step to free yourself from the burden of resentment and bring new peace by offering up forgiveness.
• Share stories
. Remind your loved one of special holidays, trips, recipes, and outings you took together. Evoke inside jokes and special moments.
• Acknowledge that there is no easy way to have a final conversation with a loved one — especially by phone. It is not necessary to have all the answers or the right words. Simply remind your loved one of how much they mean to you, and let them know they will always be remembered.
See reference for more information.
Adapted from: Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. Saying goodbye to a dying loved one by phone. Internet. Available at
https://www.crossroadshospice.com/hospice-palliative-care-blog/2020/april/29/saying-goodbye-to-a-dying-loved-one-by-phone/ Accessed on May 15, 2020.