3 wise thoughts on being with someone you love as they die, which also apply to being with someone with dementia as they live


In the three short videos below palliative care physician Dr. Mike Harlos gives advice aimed at other palliative care doctors and nurses. He talks about how to communicate with family members as someone they love approaches death.

But I think there’s something for all of us learn from his gentle wisdom on how to interact with those who find themselves at the side of someone they love as that person dies. It also struck me that what Dr. Harlos says applies equally to people who live with dementia who many others think are “gone” long before the actually are.

In these three short videos (each is less than three minutes long), Dr. Harlos shares simple pieces of practical advice with respect to communication:

  1. Assume they can hear you
  2. Take it out of the room
  3. Make space for final conversations

I invite you to watch and listen, and hope you will be as deeply touched by Dr. Harlos’s words as I was/am. Just listening to his voice at once calmed me, and brought me to tears. As I watched the videos, I  felt as if I were in the presence of an angel, albeit an earthbound one for the moment. I might have made the experience of dying with my mom more beautiful and meaningful had I been exposed to the Canadian Virtual Hospice before her death instead of after.

1 ) Assume they can hear you

Conversations at the bedside: Can my loved one still hear me? from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.

2 ) Take it out of the room

Conversations at the bedside: Being mindful of what is said from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.

3 ) Make space for final conversations

Giving space for final conversations from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.

I wrote a poem about my final moments with my mom; it’s here.

understanding the suffering associated with dying

dying with my mom

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Image copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. Teresa Youngstrom on

    Thanks Susan for another great insight. Sharing you and your Mom’s journey has touched a lot of lives, including mine.

    • Susan Macaulay on

      Teresa, thank you so much. I thought your video was great, and I’m so sorry I haven’t sent you a note about it, but I just keep heaping stuff on my plate, and I don’t seem to have the time to do everything I would like. I’m glad you are still following the blog, and hope the BANGS cards continue to work for you 🙂

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