The 4 Main Wishes of the Dying

Even though someone dying of Alzheimer's may not be able to speak much or form coherent thoughts, it's important to know that regardless of the cause, dying people tend to want to express four main kinds of thoughts, according to Ira Byock, a medical doctor who writes and speaks about what makes a "good death."

These are:

  • I love you.

  • Thank you.

  • I forgive you.

  • Forgive me.

Some dementia caregivers gain peace by discussing these concepts, from their own perspectives, with their loved ones (even if it's in monologue).


3 months ago, said...

Sadly, there are those so-called loved ones who will never ask forgiveness the lifetime of abuse they've inflicted on those they now expect to take care of them. In the end, it comes down to the caregiver forgiving the person they're now taking care of.


almost 2 years ago, said...

I've constantly been thinking these, but will verbalise all on future visits.........


over 2 years ago, said...

My mother passed away 11 months ago with Dementia. She did express as much as she could some things on this list. She asked me if everything was OK between us :-( I reassured her it was. I think somewhere in her subconscience mind was all the things she had done and said that she had no control over. So in the light of the list in the article it boils down to reassurance that all is OK to pass on. This is a wonderful website and support to those of us suffering and continue to feel the pain long after they are gone. I still read and keep up and add when I can. Bless you all dealing with this most sad disease, unless you have been there you cannot possibly understand what a family is experiencing or has experienced.


about 3 years ago, said...

I've just lost my friend and like a mother a week or so ago...Even though she was unable to speak she would hold my hand...and at times open her eyes just enough to look at me...I know she was saying "I love you and thank you." I would tell I love you too and no need to be thanking me...I would tell her I was going to miss her but that it was ok for her to leave when the angels came for her...I would kiss her check and forehead...and wisper in her ear I love you...I've been told that even though they can't speak the hearing is the last to go...I wanted her to know I loved her...I told her not to worry that everyone was going to be ok...because eternity is forever and we would all be together again some day...Keep talking to your loves ones even though they can't respond...God bless you~


about 3 years ago, said...

My Mother is in her last stage of dementia and I will treasure the four things she would say me if she could!!! Even though she appears not to recognize me any longer I still tell her I love her every time I see that beautiful face and kiss her forehead. I love her so!!! <3


over 3 years ago, said...

My mother died with dementia last month. Thanks for this article.


over 3 years ago, said...

Even though he hardly talks anymore he still says "I love you" daily.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Very informative. Seems to be the type of natural conversation that would occur at the bedside before the end. I also found it very comforting for my family and for my mother to tell her it was okay to go and to meet those she has been longing to see again. Mom couldn't speak at the end, but we could see her recognition of what we were saying and who was saying it. She even mouthed the prayers when the priest came to give her last rights. I am very proud of our family and what we did to make mom's passing as peaceful as possible.


about 4 years ago, said...

While I understand the purpose of saying these four things are the most common expressions and concerns of a dying person, I think perhaps this oversimplifies what is really going on. My experiences with family members who have been in the last days of their lives has been that they still are holding on to life in some form, until the very end. I have it found it seems to comfort them more to talk, or listen to them talk, about times we shared in life together, and how much they meant. I think this whole forgiveness focus is overrated, and that really most of us, the living and the dying, if we have not made amends for anything for which we truly need to ask or give forgiveness, that these bedside moments are not the place to do so. It seems to me that true forgiveness is, by that time, not up to us. I've also found that most of the dying people I have been with at the end of their lives have already said thank you and I love you many times during the preceding months or years. Certainly one can never say "I love you" enough, so maybe that is the most helpful and meaningful of all these suggestions. My grandfather, in his last hours of life was still trying to talk about various trips and visits with family all over the country. During his lifetime, he took thousands of pictures and put them on slides. He loved nothing more than to get his slides out at every opportunity and share them with whoever was around, narrating each and every one again and again. I'm pretty sure that this was what was happening in his head even in those last minutes. He was watching a slide show in his head, still narrating it to those of us in the room. Listening to him do that was what seemed right in those last hours. He didn't need to be forgiven for anything, nor did he seem to feel the need to tell anyone else that he forgave them for anything. He was still living his life, although in his head, right up until the moment of his death.


about 4 years ago, said...

Thanks! This is very useful. My husband has severe alzheimers.


over 4 years ago, said...

I found this most useful as my poor mother is now in late stage alzheimer's with vascular dementia and we haven't been able to have a proper talk together for years. I have missed this very much. She can say the odd phrase but can't communicate otherwise and she used to love talking and was very socialable. Just to have this guideline to talk to her with these simple phrases will mean alot to both of us. Thank you