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How to support family and friends in palliative care

What to say to someone going into palliative care

When someone is entering palliative care, you may find conversations difficult, as you may be conscious of saying something that will upset them or make the situation worse. However, they may appreciate you talking to them about what they’re going through, and you should approach the situation sensitively to see what they’d prefer. They’ll undoubtedly be grateful that you’re concerned about them too, and that they’re not going through their experience alone will make all the difference.

Activities to boost their mood

If your loved one is struggling with the reality of their situation and is concerned about how their palliative journey will progress, you should ensure that they realise this isn’t the end. Palliative care focusses on treatments and therapies that will help them as their life-limiting condition continues, and although it will not result in a cure, it can last for some time, perhaps even years.
Palliative care is there to ensure they live as comfortably and pain-free as possible as they approach the end of their life, and there isn’t a timeframe associated with this; it is just how long their condition can be eased for.
Taking part in activities together is a great way to distract your and your loved one’s attention away from their situation for a while, whether it’s something that they’ve enjoyed for years, something they’ve always wanted to try, or a new experience for both of you. As long as what you’re attempting is safe and being carried out by properly qualified and licensed practitioners, then you may just find something you’ll love to do together and eventually do in memory of them.

Enjoying nature

There’s no doubt that going outside into nature can make us feel better and more connected to our surroundings, which can improve our mental and physical well-being in some cases. When life isn’t going the way we hoped or we’ve had tragic news, we are usually tempted to shut ourselves away, but being in the peace and tranquillity of nature can help us cope with what we’re dealing with, and taking lungfuls of fresh air along with relaxing breathing techniques may just help us to feel less anxious too.


Being creative is something that many people enjoy as an outlet away from everyday life, whether it’s quilting, scrapbooking, pottery or knitting. Crafting, as well as being enjoyable activities that you can do together, are likely to be less tiring than more strenuous physical activities and therefore may be more suitable for someone whose health is declining. Making a scrapbook together that celebrates your loved one’s life or finding favourite photos and compiling them into an album will be something you and the rest of the family can take comfort from, for many years to come.

Extreme activities

People talk about their ‘bucket list’, a list of things they want to achieve before they are unable to, and quite often this consists of what might be considered extreme activities. Have you always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro? Wing-walk on a plane? Or perhaps do a parachute jump? While bucket list activities don’t have to be quite as extreme as these, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t attempt something that you’ve always wanted to. It will be really important to get the support of your medical practitioner and potentially your loved ones as you may want them to accompany you, or perhaps even your Helping Hands carer!

Creative pursuits

Many people find creative pursuits to be an excellent outlet for how they’re feeling at that time, for instance keeping a journal, or writing poetry, while others enjoy creating short stories, novels, or even a memoir of their life. Writing down thoughts and feelings or inventing fictional characters who may be going through similar events can really help some people to articulate their feelings when talking about it isn’t so easy, and they may prefer the idea of leaving their loved ones a written record for after they’ve passed. Having care at home can be an excellent support network for people who feel less able to speak to family or whose loved ones live far away, and your carer is there for your emotional needs too, as well as the practical.


Exercise releases feel-good endorphins which can benefit any of us throughout our life, however for someone facing an uncertain future there can often be a need to explore the spiritual side of life, whether that’s in a religious sense, or by connecting with the soul through a holistic approach. Some types of exercise are often credited with connecting us more deeply with our inner selves, such as yoga, or tai-chi, but any type of exercise can be effective in making us feel more in-touch with our surroundings and ourselves, whether that’s walking a beloved pet, or fresh-water swimming. Regardless of the type of exercise you’re able to do, your carer will accompany you so that you get the most out of it, meaning your well-being is promoted throughout your palliative care journey.

Getting the best resources

The best care doesn’t happen by accident – at Helping Hands, we know how dedicated our customers’ families and friends are to their loved one’s palliative care. We are there to work alongside you so that you get to take the breaks you need, meaning your physical and emotional health is supported and you can manage every aspect of your life that demands your time. We can also be there solely for your loved one if you are living too far away to manage, and our visiting care and live-in care services are designed so that our carers can effortlessly slip into an existing routine and complement it perfectly. Because our care services are delivered with a person-centred focus, and because we are fully regulated by the Care Quality Commission and Care Inspectorate Wales, you never need worry that your loved one will get anything less than the best care at all times.

Coping as a palliative carer

If you are supporting someone towards the end of their life it can be physically and emotionally draining as you take in the enormity of what is happening, yet it can also be the most rewarding thing you ever do for your loved one. It’s vital that you take some time for yourself during what will be a challenging time in your life and take the support offered whenever possible. If you’re caring for a loved one, it can be shattering to learn that they’re approaching the end of their life, and even if the news was expected it doesn’t make it any less devastating.

You will likely feel a variety of emotions during this time; anger, sadness, feelings of injustice, and perhaps even guilt, yet it’s important to let yourself go through the process and express those feelings without inhibition. There may even be feelings of relief that your loved one’s pain will soon be over, which again is perfectly normal; in fact, this could be seen as an opportunity to accept what is going to happen and plan how to make the time you have left together as special as possible.

This is also where having support from outside the home can make all of the difference, as having carers coming to undertake the routine care tasks frees you up to be able to focus on sharing memories, talking together, and making plans for the future. Your loved one may have particular wishes about their funeral service they want to tell you about or share details about their life that you never knew. They might want to talk about their grandchildren or discuss details of their will, but whatever the circumstances, by having a Helping Hands carer support you all with your loved one’s physical and emotional wellbeing, you get to focus on sharing precious moments that will comfort you once they’ve gone.