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August 26, 2013

In our quest to be helpful to YOU as we tell the crazy stories of our lives, here is some real-world advice you might need some day.

test photo 31. Good tissues

I learned this lesson the hard way, about 3 days into our final hospice vigil for my mom.

It isn’t that the hospital and hospice team didn’t provide facial tissues. They did, but they were of a crappy enough / institutional quality that the skin on my entire face suffered. My face stung like I had a terrible sun burn.

photo of kleenex box, eye cream, and restaurant gift certificate

So, bring along whatever brand or quality of tissue you prefer at home or when you have a very bad cold. Trust me. You’ll need it, and your skin will thank you.

We use a Kleenex product at home, but when I griped online about how sore my face was, several people suggested Puffs with Lotion.

My sweetie brought me a big box of tissues from home, and my face felt much better. I felt chapped (body and soul) from all the crying, but at least the tissues weren’t making it worse.

2. A nice, healing eye cream

Male or female worrier alike will appreciate and need this little skincare addition. It isn’t about vanity. Trust me. How you look is the last thing you’re thinking about as your loved one is actively dying.

I like this Vitamin E Eye Cream The Body Shop.

I may start buying it in bulk and shipping it to pals who face hospice decisions and situations.

3. Friends willing to bring you what you need

Examples from my all-too-real life:

  • Chocolate milkshake, after I had a meltdown at the hospice coordinator who told us we might get kicked out of the hospital
  • 3 am text messages with a friend 1,200 miles away who was also sitting a hospice vigil at her mom’s bedside
  • Food — at home and the hospital — so that I didn’t have to worry about cooking

On that last front, I’ll tell you NOT to be afraid to ask for what you need. Ask. Ask. Ask.

Tom kept telling friends and neighbors that we didn’t need food. That he would feed me when I came home. So, several people contacted me via email to ask what I needed, and I said “FOOD!”

Voila! We had food.

And, if you don’t cook, figure out what restaurants are close to the hospital and send gift cards instead.

I’m not a big asker of help in my daily life, but when things are dire, you NEED people to help you. You do. So, ask!


I’m sure there are other pieces of advice that will come to me later. Feel free to share your own tips for these difficult, life-changing scenarios.


About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Isn’t it funny — at times like this — that small gestures can be so comforting? A cup of tea, a small snack, a kind and thoughtful word can all become so meaningful.

  2. Hi Y’all,

    Just catchin’ up with the 3 posts I missed. Having lost both my parents, I know there is no more empty feeling.

    It seems at times our life is overloaded with sorrow, stress and sometimes fear. I always remember my Grandmother telling me, at a time I thought the world was ending, that God never gives you more than you can bear, although you may not believe it at the time. She also said it would make me stronger and more appreciative of the good things life offered me.

    I had to live to be an old woman before I fully believed her. I’ve survived and can really appreciate the wonders of life. I know there are tough times ahead, but I’ve learned to love the journey.

    BrownDog’s Human

  3. All good advice, Rox. My mother never made it to hospice, but when I was in the hospital, it was so nice of my husband (who worked nights) to swing by on his way home to bring me coffee and a pastry. After a long night in that chair, he also gave me some back rubs. I didn’t have anyone who could text me in the middle of the night, that must have been so comforting, especially with someone who was going through the same thing at the same time. Hugs.

  4. This is such good advice. I wish I’d read it before spending considerable time visiting my dad in hospice. I was always in such a crazed mental state that I was always wishing I’d remember to bring something or the other. I’m sure this will help a lot of people!

  5. It’s so important to ASK for help during these times. And people really do WANT to help, because they don’t like the feeling of helplessness. So you’re helping them at the same time as you’re helping yourself.

  6. Sadly I have experience with this too. My mom died at home almost two years ago now though it still feels like yesterday. I couldn’t eat so food wasn’t something I needed. But cups of tea really helped. And my Mom’s good friend came over to be with her so I could take a shower. I just didn’t want to leave her alone. That was a big help but not something just anyone can do. Lavender essential oil, which my brother’s girlfriend suggested, infused the room with a warm calming smell. I would say one thing not needed is flowers. We asked for donations to a fund to help young people study science in lieu of flowers after she finally died.

  7. Rox,
    thanks for this gentle reminder of how grounded these big passages are in day to day life.

    one thing I’d add — water. keep a water bottle around at all times. it’s good to stay well hydrated, especially when under stress (and crying — you can use the water to soothe your eyes too when you’re not drinking it). also sometimes just the act of drinking a bit of water and focusing on that is stress relief for a moment or two.

  8. Thank you for sharing the benefit of your hard-won wisdom about such a difficult life passage. This is a good reminder about some of the very small things that can help ease these painful moments.

  9. Don’t forget to bring your own meds. Need refills, call and order. Also I keep my cell phone charger with me at all times. Just in case, both the car, as well as inside. If you don’t have your cell phone updated, remember to bring your mini address book. Do you have a favorite picture, maybe of a loved one or a pet, always carry it with you. Need some quick energy, try some peanut butter crackers (if your not allergic), If you just have to wear your heels (some of us do), bring a pair of fold up slippers. Don:t forget the favorite headache pain reliever. Hospitals and Hospice tends to be cool, bring a jacket. Does someone know where you are, let neighbors or friends know. Get someone to get the papers and mail in for you. Do you have other pets at home, have someone take care of them.
    Just a few thoughts as I have spent my share of time in Hospice.

    1. All really great tips, Rosa. I kept a “hospital bag” packed pretty much all the time these last few years, with all sorts of typical travel and mobile connectivity essentials. That final week in hospice, I kept several sets of clothes in the car. I had PJs, etc. in case I decided to stay the night, which I sometimes did. I did forget slippers, though, so the nurses gave me some slipper socks.

      Yes … chargers for everything (laptop, kindle, phone).

      Yes … phone book and all that.

      I don’t take many meds, but yes … YOUR meds as well.

      Contact stuff and glasses, if you wear them, etc.

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