TUESDAY, Dec. 21, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- If you're caring for a loved one with a serious illness, the holiday season might be an especially difficult time. You and your family may be overwhelmed by the feeling that you have to make the holidays a special and happy occasion.
But that may not even be what your ill loved one really wants, according to Matthew J. Loscalzo, director of patient and family support services at the Rebecca and John Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego.
"For the person coping with a serious illness, having some control over what happens around them can be a gift itself. Trying too hard to make the person happy can add stress, not take it away. Caring and respectful communication is always the safest way to bring out the best in people," Loscalzo said in a prepared statement.
You should ask sick individuals how they want to spend their time, what they feel they're physically capable of doing, whether there are things they would prefer not to do, and what would be most meaningful for them.
Some ill people may want to talk about their illness, fears and even death, while others might try to put on a falsely cheerful face. Either way, you should try to make them as comfortable as possible.
"Tell your loved one you are willing to talk about anything on their mind, whenever they are ready, but that they need to let you know when and how. You may also want to tell them that you do want to talk about any concerns they may have, and that talking about deeply personal concerns will make you feel closer to them," Loscalzo said.
The Family Caregiver Alliance has more about caregiving.