When a loved one is in the final stage of life and it's clear that death is near, he or she may seem closed off to you as body systems shut down and awareness seems elusive. Especially at the end of a disease such as Alzheimer's, which robs someone of the ability to communicate and respond, it's easy to feel unsure about how to express your love and support.
The task is easier than you might think, say those who work in hospice.
Rely on physical touch. Holding hands, stroking a shoulder, or lying beside a loved one are among the most powerful forms of communication available.
Talk. Hospice workers assure families that those who don't seem "present" can almost always continue to hear. Tell your loved one what you're thinking, that he or she is loved and cherished. Sing, reminisce quietly, or say prayers. Now is not the time to rehash old wounds or work out practical details.
Keep a calm atmosphere. Little things -- soft music, quiet reminiscing, fresh flowers in the room -- make a big difference.
Be a good listener. If your loved one is lucid and can speak, give him or her the space to do so. It's not about you.
Reassure your loved one that, although you're sad about what's happening, everyone in his or her life will rally together and move forward. Those who are dying are often actively listening for this reassurance.
Find out more about how to say goodbye when someone you love is dying.