When one of your parents is very sick, you may not know what to do or expect. The time you spend with them by their bedside is very important. It is time that you will never forget. You may find it very difficult and very uncomfortable to be there but you will be glad you did it when it is over.
People are very different in how they handle serious illness. You are just going to have to let them deal with it in their own way. They may just act the way you have always known them or they may seem like a totally different person to you. A lot depends on the type of illness they have and whether or not recovery is possible.
Your loved one may be afraid of dying, tired all the time, confused, unwilling to have visitors, afraid to be alone, not wanting to talk, restless, depressed, or wanting to talk all the time. None of these actions are unusual. The best thing you can do is to be prepared for the unexpected. Your primary goal should be to make them as comfortable as possible.
Just being there with your parent is the most important thing you can do. Do not worry about saying the right thing. You may even admit, “Mom, Dad, I don’t know what is the right thing to say to you. I just know that I want to be with you and I am happy to be here.”
If your parent is sick they may want you to hold their hand, softly stroke their hair, read to them, play some music for them, show them photographs, tell them family stories, listen to them, pray with them or just sit quietly with them. Try not to upset them and assure them that they aren’t a burden to you.
Be conscious of how long you stay. After awhile you will get a sense of how long is appropriate. If you notice them starting to close their eyes or lose concentration, it’s time to go. In most cases I would suggest not staying longer than an hour. Frequent visits are much more important than long visits. Don’t be offended if they tell you they want to be alone. Having family members visit you requires a lot of energy and can be very draining to those who are ill.
As difficult as it may seem, imagine that this is the last conversation you may have with them. This will help you say everything you need to say.