Helping kids whose father has terminal cancer
December 21, 2017 11:32 AM   Subscribe

A dear friend has stage IV prostate cancer and has been given 2-3 months. He's predictably in a lot of pain and heavily medicated. His wife has asked if I can think of something happy the kids (boys 17 and 11 and girl 14) can do with him to make some good memories or just to distract them. I'm pretty devastated by this myself as they are family to me and I'm having a hard time thinking creatively..or thinking at all. Please help, dear MeFites.
posted by Preserver to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
When my Dad was declining, we played cards with him & chatted about the day/week, and it was easy on him, as he was not getting out of bed AND he was not medicated. For him, pushing 80, poker & rummy were easy. For this age range, you might give some of the newer card games a whirl. Exploding Kittens (regular version) might spark some laughter with a bunch of visual humor. “Kitten Ignorance” is the challenge.

Also, my kids read to their grandpa. Chances are there is assigned reading for school that they can read a chapter or selection to share with him & get some schoolwork done and maybe discuss it with their dad if it overlaps with his interests or experiences.

So sorry, Preserver
posted by childofTethys at 12:14 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


So sorry to hear about this situation.

New Years is just around the corner - a big box of dangerous fireworks would certainly be a fun activity, but may not work if they live in a city.
posted by bigplugin at 12:20 PM on December 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Read to him, play his favorite music for him.
When my brother was dying of cancer, he liked a warm blanket, so I'd take the cotton blanket, put it in the dryer for 10 minutes, and he clearly enjoyed it even after he couldn't speak.
When a friend was on hospice care, I visited, and told her things I liked about her, and also that I understood she had to go. She may or may not have been conscious, but it helped me to let go.
They can put lotion on his hands, wash his face, put a cool cloth on his forehead, hold his hand. It might help them feel some sense of relief by helping. hugs to all.
posted by theora55 at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2017 [9 favorites]


Playing a game if he is up for it, even for a few minutes
Holding his hand and telling him "Hey remember when we ___"
Making some kind of art together that the kids' mom can then hang in their home, like just painting something on big paper together with all their names and the kids' and dad's handprints on it, maybe even one for each kid so they have each their own special art they did with dad
Playing dad's favorite songs while they talk or play games
Bringing in a little tiny Christmas tree and hot cocoa for them to enjoy together, if they celebrate Christmas, if not, whatever holiday they celebrate together
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:42 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


I have a chronic illness and often spent days--from one to several in a row--in bed. Even when I'm out of bed, I'm not always at full energy. I enjoy it when one or more of my kids just hangs out in the bed with me doing whatever they were going to do anyway, like playing a hand-held video game or watching a video. We have dogs and cats, and having one or more of them in the bed with us to focus petting and cuddling on is also nice.

I also really like just being in the living room when my kids are doing their stuff. They play video games together, and I like being in the room while they play and talk and laugh with each other.

My meds make me sleep a lot. The other day, my 13-year-old fell asleep in the bed with me in the afternoon. I loved it. My kids are all beyond coming into bed with us at night, but I really liked taking a nap together.

For some of the above suggestions, I know that I would enjoy being there while my kids played even if I wasn't well enough to play along--for instance, if my kids decided to play Exploding Kittens in my bedroom. I'd get to laugh along with them to the extent I was able, and bask in their enjoyment.

For me, just being present with my kids is huge. So anything they can take to him, if he has the energy for it, might be good for him, and help build memories for them.
posted by Orlop at 1:08 PM on December 21, 2017 [20 favorites]


Can he speak and recall memories? I'd make some kind of keepsake journal or recording using one of those "random questions to ask your parent/grandparent" lists. Things like "What was your first job?" Just random light things. Maybe they'll get some gems but mostly they'll be able to have something to hold on to. It can be done all in one weekend or one question a day over a month or whatever.
posted by eisforcool at 1:16 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


Idea: Send the kids on an outing - something simple, a walk around the neighborhood or a nighttime drive to check out Christmas light displays - and have them Skype/FaceTime/whatever back to him. Maybe they could pick up coffee or ice cream or something on the way home to share a treat with Dad and talk about what they saw.

In this circumstance I can imagine wanting a break from the tension/sadness at home but feeling bad about that and also guilty because Dad will be gone soon and we need to spend every moment together, so I think this could work. Sibling bonding + shared experience with Dad + change of scenery.
posted by Flannery Culp at 1:58 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]


My beloved dad died from a brain tumour when I was 10. He was ill for 9 short months and the thing that still frustrates me as I look back is the feeling of being powerless amongst adults who thought I was too young to help. The few times I was able to help with something simple is a good memory from a horrible time. I would suggest that giving the kids the chance to help, low stakes and no pressure, is something they may take comfort from.

I also would suggest a video of the family together doing whatever activity is suitable, even just a casual few minutes of fun selfie videos together so that there is a link for the family as the children grow and memories fade. The few moments of film I have I treasure.
I am so sorry you are all going through this.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 2:51 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Record everything. Reading stories, jokes, talking together, looking at photos together.
posted by gregglind at 6:08 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


- Watch TV shows together and talk about them, eg David Attenborough nature documentaries.

- Play computer games together.

- Play boardgames together.
posted by Murderbot at 8:37 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


So sorry to hear that you and your friends are experiencing this. What about doing art together--painting or sculpture? Or a jigsaw puzzle that could be mounted and framed later? Not sure if he has much appetite, but what about cooking a meal together (esp from his favorite cuisine, eg buy a pasta maker and make ravioli?) If he is mobile at all (with or without a wheelchair?) might there be accessible things for him to do, like visiting a reindeer farm or seeing NYE fireworks or a movie? Or if there is any budget for it, what about paying a masseuse to come over and give everyone, including dad, some massage/thoughtful, healing body work? Also, swimming in a warm pool might feel good for the dad if he's able. Do they have pets? If so, you might also want to consider including them as animals can be remarkable companions for everyone during times of illness and grief--so a walk with the dog, or a new toy or tree for kitty to play with and bring some
joy.

Depending on where he is having his care, there may be a social work or supportive/palliative care services worker/department who might have good suggestions. I would also agree with RandomInconsistencies that the kids, especially at their ages, may appreciate being involved with their dad's care rather than distracted. They might have some ideas too of what they might like to be doing.
posted by stillmoving at 12:36 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Thank you so much for all of your suggestions, especially the advice for the children to help with their dad's care. One of the hardest parts is feeling so helpless, and now I have some ideas of how to help. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by Preserver at 7:01 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


Would he be up for doing an episode of StoryCorp? It would be a nice way to preserve his individual history and also something for the kids to participate in. The app makes it very easy. Also remember your own physical and mental health.
posted by blackjack514 at 10:38 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


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