What to Say to Someone Who's Dying

What to Say to Someone Who's Dying of Alzheimer's

Wondering what to say as you sit in vigil with someone in end-stage Alzheimer's disease? One thing you can be fairly confident about is that some of your words will be heard.

Hospice workers and psychologists suggest that the dying find it especially helpful to hear their loved ones express that everyone will fare all right after they're gone.

For example:

  • Adult children might talk about all they've learned from the person and describe how they plan to look after the remaining parent and one another.

  • A spouse might find words of reassurance along the lines of how the mate will be missed and grieved even as a promise is made to take care of one's self.

  • Anyone can talk about the ways that grandchildren, colleagues, or community members have benefited from knowing the person, and share examples of how their inspirations will move forward.

  • Any devoted caregiver can recap how it's been a privilege to spend these sick days with the dying person and then talk about how the memories of these days and all the happier, earlier ones will stay with the caregiver always.

Words like these give permission that it's OK for everyone, including the dying, to move on. They assure, "You seem tired and should rest; please don't worry about us."

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 4 years, said...

I can so relate to this article... In Dad's last hours I ask him if he was in any pain? He responded with a firm NO... Are you alright I asked, a firm YES... Are you ready to go? He looked at me as said and I quote " What about Mom?" I said the she would be here until He and God came to get Her to bring Her home with you. He looked into my eyes and I could see that he was relieved... With the consult of Hospice on the phone I kept him comfortable... Just moments before his last breath, he looked into my eyes, I said I love you, the look was one of comfort... then he was gone.... I will treasure those last hours forever... He visits me in my dreams, I feel his presence but I never see him, but it is him... His way of letting me know he's watching over Mom and I.... On eagles wings you soar, my dearest Dad....Your life long dedication to your children will be ever appreciated......

over 5 years, said...

Although my mother left us in August of this year. The article was reassuring that we handled our vigil correctly and to the benefit of our mother. My brother and I and our families were there for a good portion of the evening as mom was already into her 'death rattle'. We placed cool wash cloths on her forehead because she was running a fever, and we held her hands as we talked gently and quietly with her. We spoke of some of the funny and weird events in our lives that mom was involved in and even laughed. When things got down to the last moments, I spoke to mom and told her it was okay to leave us that we would be fine. I asked her to look for her parents and siblings as she had been asking about them in the months prior to the end. The more I hear from postings on this site, the more at ease I have become with my mother's passing. Without guidance or knowledge of what to do, we did what felt natural to do. We comforted mom and tried to sooth her fears. At the end, she passed sweetly on. This article was "on the spot" with great information.

over 6 years, said...

One year ago today @ 2:32 AM my mom died of vascular dementia....and during the last 12 hours of her life Hospice told me to do just that.....tell my mom that it was okay, and that I would be alright.....so I did...and you know what??? I lied.....I am NOT okay and I hated every moment that I told my mom that I would be okay.....and to this day I wonder is that REALLY what she wanted to hear??? Does that make the dying person feel like they were not really needed if we are going to be fine without them?? Did anyone ever come back and tell us that is what they wanted to hear....I regret telling my mom I would be okay, I wish I had just kept telling her all the other things I said that I love her and talking about memories. That is my opinion and how I personally feel and how I wish I never told my mom I would be okay without her.