Timing the "Last Good-bye"

If your loved one is dying, as in the end stages of Alzheimer's, do you find that you're reluctant to leave the bedside, much less the house? Do you, or visiting family members, feel a burden to say good-bye every time you leave, in case it might be the "last time"?

This is as common as it is understandable. No one wants to miss a final farewell with a loved one. And yet, it's impossible to time because we're not gods or soothsayers. Moreover, there's evidence that the dying choose their moment of death and often prefer a moment when family members are not at their bedside, in order to spare them the experience.

Hospice and dying experts often counsel families not to fixate on timing. What's more important, they say, is that you make your peace, by expressing your love and appreciation, at many small points along the way. You'll be less likely to have regrets or attach unnecessary weight to whatever becomes the eventual last good-bye.

And when you must part temporarily, remember that a hug or touch speaks as profoundly as any important speech.

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