Blessed are the caregivers

It takes special people to provide compassionate care at the end of life

We’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. In putting together this Death Issue to coincide with Halloween and Día de los Muertos, we went out into the community and talked with people about preparing for the inevitable end—for ourselves and our loved ones. It’s been eye-opening, to say the least.

One of the things we were reminded of was the very hard work that so many people do on behalf of the dying. Some of them are paid professionals, while others volunteer their time to care for loved ones, or even strangers, in their final months, weeks and days. The work may vary from spending a few hours a week doing housework for a patient in hospice care to providing companionship in a hospital room while family members get some much-needed rest. Whether they provide such services as a vocation, as volunteers, or as family members, all end-of-life caregivers deal with situations most of us shudder to imagine.

When it comes to accepting the inevitability of death, we all react in different ways. But caregivers and others who spend a lot of time with people close to the end of life agree on one thing: it’s not easy. It takes a special kind of person to be able to compassionately offer care to those whose health is deteriorating, who can’t take care of themselves, who may not even be aware that they’re being helped. Those special people offer comfort that is twofold, as they aid the dying in their most vulnerable of states and also provide piece of mind to loved ones struggling with their impending loss.

To all of those who help others to pass peacefully, who offer dignity to the dying, we thank you.