• What do I say when the person I am looking after says things like "I just want to die."?

    Asked by charl0tte on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    What do I say when the person I am looking after says things like "I just want to die."?

    7 Answers from the Community

    7 answers
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      Hello charl0tte. I'm a caregiver for my dad, who has a stage IV pancreatic cancer with a poor prognosis, and has started end-of-life care. While I am not familiar with your personal situation, I think it's important to realize that it may simply be his way to express his suffering, and feelings of overwhelm. I don't know that there's any right way to respond.

      Sometimes it's not necessary to say much at all. Maybe the best thing is to let him know that someone is listening. I hear you. I love you. You're not alone. And give him some time.

      It's easy to feel overwhelmed when you feel miserable, think too far ahead, and think about all the changes you hadn't planned on. All we have is right now, so try to focus on the short term, and offer hope and things toward which to look forward.

      ---We'll take one day at a time, and if that's too much, one moment at a time. A bad day today, can turn into a good day tomorrow, and every good day is worth grabbing onto. If you feel pain, we can find a way to manage it. If you don't understand something, we can find information. If you fear treatments, we can find other people who have been through the same things, and talk to them. ---- Maybe try to find some positive things toward which to look forward on his calendar in the short term. Change the focus of his mind so that he isn't seeing only the cancer, but more positive things and possibilities.

      With dad's cancer, he has had awful days, and awful weeks. But he has also had wonderful days where it almost seemed nothing was wrong and he has a relatively high quality of life. Those are the days to hold onto, to hope for, and that make it worth getting up in the morning. Small victories.

      Maybe some of this will be helpful for your situation, maybe not. How is the person you're looking after doing now physically?

      over 4 years ago
    • carm's Avatar

      I am an oncology/ end of life nurse and so for me, this is a request I hear quite often. For any caregiver, these words can be hard to hear. The job of a caregiver is a supportive one. We support them and help them maintain whatever independence that remains. Sometimes we don't always agree with their decision but regardless, we recognize that it is theirs to make. For me personally, I see nothing wrong in that statement, but I know that sometimes it is said just to evoke a response from me, and not because their will to live has become a will to leave. To be sure that this is indeed their wish, then when he states that he wishes to die just ask him, " if you want to give up treatment and let nature take it's course, how can I help you with that?" Ask if he needs you to collect information on hospice or make an appointment with his oncologist so that he can get that hospice referral. You would be suprised at how many patients will come to re-establish that desire to live once someone reflects their request back to them. There is no shame in walking away from the fight. Their decision can never be wrong as long as they are the ones making the decision and as I stated, we are their to support them in their journey. We can't make those decisions for them; its just not our journey. We have our own, and I would never want anyone to deny me any request I make. Best of luck to you; you're role is so valuable, and it is moments such as these when you see just how much value you possess; these patients don't verbalize that request to just anyone. You must be very special to him, Carm.

      over 4 years ago
    • gwendolyn's Avatar

      Acknowledge what he's feeling at that moment and don't dismiss it by saying, "No, you don't." I suspect he wants you to realize how utterly terrified he is. Listen. Draw him out further on the topic if you can. If you allow him to talk he may talk himself out of this mindset. Remind him how much you and others need him.

      over 4 years ago
    • SMT4's Avatar

      I can only speak from a patient’s perspective and at times comments can be made in sincerity or frustration. When you see the life you once had change drastically it can make a person want to verbalize that emotion and thought about current life circumstances, and it may be situational at times. As Carm said it’s important to reflect back to the person their thoughts and feelings that he or she may express because as humans we sometimes do what I call emotional vomiting. We just get so sick of all we have to experience we tend to empty it all at once or say things just to have some feedback, not really knowing how to ask someone what do you think I should do, or what do you think of what is happening. I remember when I first got diagnosed I was constantly asking my mother if she thought I was going to die. I never expressed my fear of dying or spoke about the fear of dying until my second round of radiation and then I stopped asking and started talking about how I felt. Sometimes we need to just start the conversation as uncomfortable as it maybe, and as sensitive as we want to be to the person. The blunt way of confronting a cancer patient may be just that; confronting the patient and discussing the issue of them having cancer and their thoughts about life and death. You are an Amazing person for what you do! I know it can’t be easy on the caregiver end.

      over 4 years ago
    • ticklingcancer's Avatar

      Hey Charlotte, you should remind him of everything he has to live for. I was diagnosed with Stage III Testicular Cancer in November 2011. Treatment for this is brutal and I can certainly relate to him wanting to throw in the towel but life is worth it. He'll realize this once he gets this treatment behind him. Just be encouraging. I would imagine he's having a rough time and may even be a little depressed about it. Might not be a bad idea to have him speak with someone about putting him on medication just while he goes through treatment. The meds can be reevaluated once he completes treatment.

      over 4 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      You don't have to say anything, you just have to listen.

      over 4 years ago
    • braintumorz's Avatar

      Hi, charl0tte,

      I am a brain cancer survivor at 23, and I want you to know that I have thought and said those things before. Where some would panic, I think a measured reaction is important. The person you are looking for is probably just trying to express how much pain they are in and for one reason or another, they may feel like no one understands quite how bad they are feeling. I would sympathize and give physical support, like a hug, rather than try and reason your way out of this situation. I'm sure you will notice high and low points, and this may be the lowest, but you can realize and acknowledge even to the person you're looking after that it will only go up from here.

      over 4 years ago

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