Children at the Bedside of a Dying Family Member or Friend

Categories: Care.

It is not uncommon for a dying adult, who lives with their children or grandchildren, to choose against a home death in an effort to “protect the children.” While many families would welcome guidance in this area from their health care providers, few of them receive training on the topic so there tends to be reluctance across the disciplines to offer such advice.

The experience of parents feeling uncertain regarding their children’s inclusion at the bedside of a dying loved one is relatively new. Throughout much of history the norm was for dying and death to happen at home in the presence of everyone who lived there, including the children. In many parts of the world this is still the case. Excluding children from the bedside of a dying friend or family member can have unintended effects, such as depriving children of the opportunity to share their loved one’s final days. Much like adults, children benefit from having the opportunity to say goodbye to someone who is dying. In addition, when not given the option of being at the bedside of a dying friend or family member, many children will imagine scenes that are much worse than the reality.

While the appropriate amount of time at the bedside will vary based on both the developmental age and the personality of the child, children of all ages can benefit from being included. However, it is important to prepare children for what they are likely to experience during the dying process, and to foster an environment where they feel comfortable asking any questions that may arise for them. Below are some guidelines for including children and youth at the bedside when someone they care about is dying.

Prepare children

It is important to prepare children for what they are likely to experience at the bedside of the dying. If the person is dying at the home of the child, the child will have the advantage of seeing the changes more gradually, which can be less startling. Some children will have a need for a lot of information, including what could happen as death draws near, while others will need information only about what is happening now. Follow the child’s cues for how much information they want.

This article appears in Canadian Virtual Hospice. The view the entire article please click here