Give them a voice!
I was with a woman the other day, she is in her eighties and has Dementia although there are moments of such clarity that I sometimes forget.
With each person I sit with, in whatever late stage of life they are in, I remember always to meet them where they are, not where I want them to be. What that means to me, is to be mindful that each person, despite their age or diagnosis, is going through something unique to them. We cannot assume that because they have dementia, for instance, they do not have a brain, or an opinion, or feelings.
When someone is aging, or has been diagnosed with an illness that will increase their decline, their autonomy and voice are in many ways taken from them. We make their choices for them, we assume what they may or may not want.
Yesterday, I asked this lovely woman if she wanted to go to her room so we could visit in private. We were in an area where there were other visitors and it was loud. I assumed she would prefer the quiet of her room.
She said to me, "I don't want to go to my room. I am not a child. I want to sit out here with everyone else, I want to feel alive." That really hit me... especially the part about feeling alive.
I reminded myself of the advice I often give, which is to listen, not to fix but to hear and validate their words, and to meet them where they are, not where we want them to be. But there is another one too, which is most important, ask them what they would like, whether it be what they wear, what they eat, or what they want to do. Maybe they won't be able to answer, but at least they were asked.
It is the people who are aging, declining, and dying, who remind me to treat people better, and to NOT dismiss them because of their age, disability, or illness related inabilities. Offer them a chance to have a voice and a choice... always.