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Giving to a Loved One in Hospice Care

“Every relationship is one of give and take. Giving engenders receiving, and receiving engenders giving. What goes up must come down; what goes out must come back. In reality, receiving is the same thing as giving, because giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe.”

This is Deepak Chopra talking about the art of giving. Practicing the art of giving is simple: if you want joy, give it to others; if you want love, give love; if you want appreciation, give appreciation. It all comes full circle. When you have a close loved one such as parent, spouse or child in hospice, it seems like a no-brainer that you would spend time with them daily, giving them support, love and encouragement. But when it’s a friend, neighbor, extended family member, or work associate in hospice in San Mateo and elsewhere, you may feel awkward about visiting. Indeed, life gets in the way and you get busy, not forgetting them but not really remembering either. Here’s the truth: they need you.

July 15 was National Give Something Away Day: a day each year where we focus on all the things we have (including our health!) and consider ways to give back to those in need (even if it’s just giving a smile or an hour or two of your time).

Generosity: It’s in Our Nature

If you ask people what makes them feel the most fulfilled, you may find that “giving” is one of the most consistent answers. This makes total sense, as we are biologically hard-wired to be generous. Scientific research shows that humans get real mental and physical benefits from sharing with others. Giving promotes a sense of social connectedness, according to Dr. Beth McQuiston, board-certified neurologist and medical director. It doesn’t have to be about giving money. It’s more about caregiving and helping others who truly need it at this time in their life. From bringing a friend in hospice a homemade batch of soup to just sitting and holding their hand, there are so many small ways to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a monumental gesture, as long as you maintain that human connection.

What to Do

It can be difficult and daunting knowing what to do or say when a friend is in hospice. Here are some tips:

  • Before bringing food, photos or mementos, check with the hospice facility first or the owner of the home. It’s always a wise to check first to see if it’s a good time for you to be there.
  • Smells are strongly linked to memories, so if you know your grandmother has always loved the smell of roses, take them to her.
  • Try not to wear strong perfumes because they can be overwhelming.
  • Don’t be offended if the person can’t eat what you bring them. As people near the end of life, their tastes often change, and medication can also cause them to dislike something they’ve always enjoyed. However, the gesture of bringing comfort food can still be appreciated. If nothing else, the family may enjoy it.
  • Don’t feel the need to fill the silence with chatter. If you get the sense they don’t want to talk, just sit with them. Hold their hand, give a smile, a hug or reassuring words. Simply being in the room is often enough comfort, a reassurance to them that things are all OK.
  • If being silent and still is too difficult for you, take something with you to keep busy.
  • Watch a favorite program together. Bring photos from high school and reminisce, for example, but don’t go overboard because it can be overwhelming.
  • Engage in an activity you know the person enjoys doing, such as knitting, playing cards or playing a game of Scrabble.
  • Play music they love. According to, studies show that those in hospice and palliative care who listen to music as part of their treatment feel better emotionally and physically.
  • Bring photos of pets or other people who are unable to visit.
  • Read to them.
  • Bring children to see their parents, grandparents, etc. in hospice. This will be beneficial for them. Have them draw pictures, sit on the bed with them (if the patient is comfortable with that) and just chat about what is going on in the child’s life. This will lighten the mood throughout the entire room.

Indeed, the best gift you can bring to someone in hospice is the gift of yourself: companionship and conversation.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

We offer comprehensive hospice services for patients and their families. We encourage friends and loved ones to come see our hospice patients. It lifts their spirits and gives them something to look forward to each day. We hope you consider giving of yourself on National Give Something Away Day and indeed throughout the whole year. Contact us at 888-978-1306.