My uncle's dying. What can I do for him and his family?
November 21, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

My uncle (by marriage) has terminal cancer. His doctors have just recommended hospice care. We're medium-close; I see him and his family every couple of years. I live about 300 miles away. What can I do for him? For his wife (my mom's sister) and his grown kids? What can I say? Thank you.
posted by The Minotaur to Human Relations (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You have to go with how the family and your uncle feel about this process. I do hospice and personal care for the dying. Some people act as if nothing is wrong. Don't put anything of your attitudes about death and dying and just be as present as they seem to be indicating they want you to be.
posted by BarcelonaRed at 4:51 PM on November 21, 2014


I've repeated this story a lot, but when my mother was sick and dying with cancer people would come up to her and say, "I don't know what to say." She'd answer, "I've sorry is good." It wasn't so much that she wanted to hear this, but rather she wanted people to know how to say something other than "I don't know what to say." Sometimes, depending on the person, she might say, "This sucks is good."
posted by cjorgensen at 5:33 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I'm sorry. I love you guys so much. Do you want to talk about it? Or would you rather talk about something else? And would it be good if I came by next weekend and helped out, maybe with laundry and groceries or you tell me what would be helpful?"

Also you could set up a meal train or lotsahelpinghands website if it hasn't already been done.
posted by feets at 6:34 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


When people have a new situation that throws their schedules out of whack, gift certificates for grocery deliveries are always very convenient.
posted by colin_l at 6:35 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you wanted to drop off a frozen lasagna that's been double portioned for reheating in a microwave, that's a pretty great thing for people who are too worn out to think about planning meals.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:31 PM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Find out if your uncle would like an in-person visit from you. If he would, and you're able to, do it. I flew cross-province to see my aunt before she died from her cancer--she was ill, but still able to enjoy visitors--and I'm so grateful I was able to say goodbye. I wasn't able to go to her funeral (she died shortly after I returned home) but I'm more glad I visited with her when she was still alive.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:16 PM on November 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


Frozen dinners can be really great (though it's good to check what people can eat, sometimes there are specific eating restrictions on the ill). One small caveat: I had a party before I had a baby where I asked people to bring frozen food instead of baby gifts, and of ten-twelve frozen meals people brought, like eight of them were lasagna. Lasagna is great, but just sayin'.
posted by feets at 6:20 AM on November 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


you mention his grown kids - are there grand children?
One of the most helpful things people offered me when my dad died and during the 6 months before he died when he was in a coma, was to meet me at the hospital and entertain my then 2 1/2 son so I could visit with my dad alone. At first he was too poorly to have a toddler in the room and later he was unable to communicate and this frightened my son.
So they would come and meet me in the lobby, once a week for 6 months and then daily for the last three weeks. I would hand them child, toys and diapers and some money for a coffee, and they looked after him for 30 or 45 minutes or however long it worked (not longer than 1 hour usually as he did not know them that well) in the lobby or gardens. One relative did a 2-hour drive to do this daily during the last week. I am truly grateful as this made it possible for me to be there when he died and he died in my arms.

What made it so cool was that they took turns to come to the hospital - it would have been to stressful for him and me to drop my son off somewhere.

Perhaps they do not have small children, but a dog they cannot bring.

Also, after he died I was grateful to those who offered to help with emailing and phoning distant relatives (we are a huge extended clan-like family) to spare me from repeating it all so many times, and with my toddler next to me it would have been impossible anyway. He was stressed out enough already.
posted by 15L06 at 1:04 PM on November 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Previously original link behind paywall, but a version of the article here
posted by lalochezia at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2014


Thanks everyone.

I talked to my mom about it. She said there's nothing we can do. Her sister told her that she's too overwhelmed to have company--even well-meaning family, even staying in a hotel. Her sister told her "I'll need you after." A visit wouldn't have been for my uncle's sake in any case as he's mostly sleeping and on heavy medication at this point.

This branch of our family is actually quite well off financially, so they aren't hurting for help in terms of caretaking, meal prep etc. And all three of the daughters have come home and are helping out. My mom convinced me that they just need room right now and that our time to be there for them will come later.

I did send my aunt a very short email saying I'm thinking of them. I included a photo of my uncle and me from when I'm about two years old, one of many family photos I got scanned a couple of years ago. That seemed about right.
posted by The Minotaur at 9:04 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


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