September 20, 2022

What to Say to Someone in Hospice 

what to say to a hospice patient

It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who goes into hospice. You may also struggle with what to say to someone with family in hospice. But it’s crucial that you have those conversations and do what you can to provide support during end-of-life situations. 

Tips for Having a Conversation with a Hospice Patient

Every person’s hospice experience is unique. However, most will appreciate you talking openly about topics such as:

  • Their decision to start receiving hospice care. Was it a difficult decision to make? How has their experience been so far?
  • Changes in their environment. Is there any way you can help improve their experience? Are there things you can do to make them more comfortable? 
  • The need for honest communication. Whatever a hospice patient is feeling is valid. You should remind them that emotions like sadness, frustration, anger, and regret are normal. It’s also understandable for hospice patients to feel relieved that their health concerns are now behind them. 
  • Reassurance of your support. Hospice patients know they have a care team attending to their needs, but it’s helpful to remind them that you’re there for them, too.

What to Say to a Family Member or Friend in Hospice

When the person in hospice is a family member or close friend, conversations can be especially challenging. But pushing through the discomfort is essential for them and you. 

It can be helpful to talk about topics like:

  • Fond memories. What positive experiences come to mind when they look back at their life? 
  • Actions after they pass. Are there things you can take care of for the patient after they die? If so, reassure them that you’ll be diligent in addressing those tasks. 
  • Acknowledgment of your feelings for them. Telling someone you love them — even though they surely already understand that — can be very meaningful to a hospice patient. 
  • Thoughts about what’s ahead. There are many beliefs about what happens after we die. If the patient wants to discuss their expectations, you should encourage them to share their thoughts.

And at many times during a person’s hospice stay, simply being together silently may be enough. 

What to Avoid Saying to Hospice Patients

Certain conversations tend not to be beneficial to hospice patients, including: 

  • Talk of a possible last-minute cure or remission
  • Discussions about what led to the person being in hospice 
  • Conversations centered on you rather than the patient
  • Discussions about your religious beliefs or opinions about dying
  • Dismissive comments about death “just being a part of life”

Of course, if the patient brings these topics up, it’s important to respect their desire to discuss them.  

Be “Present” for a Loved One in Hospice

Ultimately, the best thing you can do for someone in hospice or someone who has a loved one who’s receiving hospice care is to be present when you’re with them. There are many tasks associated with a person’s passing, but they can wait. 

Be sure that your friend or family member knows you’re fully with them when you’re with them.

Learn About Baptist Health Home Care Services

Baptist Health provides compassionate, supportive hospice care. If you or a loved one will soon begin your end-of-life journey, Baptist Health Home Care Services can provide information on our services.

Learn More.