Hospice and end-of-life care are something many people don't talk about, in part because the topic seems frightening or sad. But these journeys are part of the overall journey of life, and avoiding discussions or hiding the situation from children can actually make things more difficult for everyone involved.
Learn more about whether you should include young children in a grandparent's hospice journey and how to do so below.
Whether you include your children in a grandparent's end-of-life experience — and to what extent — is a personal choice. You should definitely consider factors unique to your situation, such as family dynamics, the emotional and mental maturity of the children in question and their personal relationship with the loved one involved.
Parents, grandparents and others may want to shield children — especially younger children — from the concept and sorrow of death. This desire to protect the young people in your life is natural, but you should always consider whether hiding the facts from them protects them in the long run.
When families are not honest about what is happening with younger children, those children can be confused. They may not understand why their grandparent or other loved one is no longer around or why the family seems distracted, busy or sad. If children have a close personal relationship with their grandparent and aren't afforded the opportunity to spend time with them during a hospice journey, they may look back on these choices with bitterness when they get older. They may feel they were robbed of a chance to comfort or love their grandparent or just to spend a bit more time with them.
If you do decide to involve children in the hospice journey of an older adult, it can be daunting to get started with the conversation. Here are a few tips for approaching the topic with kids.
How children spend time with a grandparent or another loved one in hospice depends on a variety of factors, including the age of the children, the overall family and friend support system, whether the hospice care is taking place at home or in a community and what medical issues the person is dealing with. However, some common options include:
Of course, you should always discuss the wishes of the person in hospice before you make any of the plans above. Find out if they want visitors, who they'd like to visit and whether they're comfortable with grandchildren or other young relatives being part of the hospice journey.