How to Prepare for the Loss of a Terminally Ill Mother

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

The death of a parent is seldom easy. Traveling through the experience with your terminally ill mother can take its toll on you as you anticipate her lost, according to Knowing that your mom is dying gives you the opportunity to spend time with her and say your farewells, as well as prepare for the events that will follow her death, such as her funeral or memorial service and the settling of her estate.

End-of-Life Care

Depending on her illness, need for care and your abilities, determine where your mother should spend her last days. Some families prefer to set up hospice care at home, while others find the situation too difficult or cumbersome to handle. Discuss options including in-home hospice care, a nursing home or on-site hospice care with your mother, her care team and the rest of your family. Your mother might feel most comfortable at home and her insurance could cover hospice nurses to help with her care.

Support for You

You will probably grieve many times before your mother’s final minutes pass, according to Consider joining a support group for families of terminally ill patients. The hospital, your mother's doctor or your minister could provide information on various groups. Find someone who is willing to listen to you and support you during this transition. Family and friends might also need to talk through the grief process, so keep a list of options available.

Final Preparations

Call in family and friends who want to say their goodbyes. Ask that they stagger their visits so they don’t tire your mother out. If your mom’s faith is important to her, arrange a visit with her minister or whomever will perform her funeral service. Confirm the arrangements for her body and what she wants in her funeral, suggests the Hospice of North Central Florida website.

Financial Planning

If your mom hasn’t prepared a will, power of attorney, medical power of attorney and end-of-life documents, arrange for an attorney to help her. A transfer-on-death clause on deeds and other investments can transfer her real property without going through probate or incurring large tax burdens, according to CNBC’s April 2013 article, “How to Prepare Financially Before a Loved One Dies.” Handling these things for your mom can ease her mind so she doesn’t worry about how things will work once she is gone.

Life in Transition

Prepare your family and friends for what they will see as your mom moves closer to death. Changes in breathing, color, wakefulness, food consumption and smells should be noted so those who sit with your mom are not unnecessarily alarmed. Explain that they can sit quietly with your mom, hold her hand, talk gently to her and express their love, suggests the Hospice of North Central Florida website. Encourage all to assure your mom that they will be OK when she dies.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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