When a person is dying, she is retreating from everything outside of her. She has little energy for anything outside of what is going on in her internal world.
She cannot respond the same to conversation. It takes much effort to answer questions. To engage someone in the normal back and forth conversational style can be overwhelming for her. Instead, tell a story. Tell her what you did today or whatever is on your mind. But don’t ask questions. What she has energy to tell, she will. Do not be concerned if she does not respond to you the way she used to or even with a hint of a smile. She cannot.
It is not about you. Just keep talking to her if you want to verbally connect. Otherwise, your presence is enough.
When a person is approaching the end of their life, things outside of them begin to lose appeal. You will start to notice they are not doing some of the things they have enjoyed over the years. They begin to not want to see people. This is not to be confused with depression.
For the rest of this article, put the illness of depression aside. What I am talking about here is the 'going inward' of a person who is dying. The person may be depressed as well, or has fought it their whole life, but this process is outside the realm of depression.
What is happening is their focus is now internal. We believe this is the busiest time of life. They are doing what we call 'life review,' and they are preparing for the ultimate journey from their body. It may appear to you they are depressed when they are refusing guests, activities or watching their favorite show. They are not. The closer they are to their death, the more you will notice the withdrawal.
When you see this, know they are working out their lifetime. They are looking back over their life intensely. What this may look like is a strong need to tell you stories and share pictures. You may start hearing about people and incidents that you have never heard before ... and they will be sleeping more.
When you begin to notice this process is happening, what you do to support them now is to sit down and listen. Don't change their story. If they are telling it with the wrong details, etc. let them. The gifts to give right now are time and your listening ear. Priceless.
Hi, My name is Deanna Cochran. I am an end-of-life doula to families who are living with someone they love during their last days. I assist with medical, practical, emotional and spiritual needs as they arise. For more information about me. about Deanna