Recently my husband lost a close friend to cancer. I heard him talking to Bill’s wife on the phone and was moved to tears when he said to her, “Experiencing the last moments of life with someone is as miraculous as watching a child being born…” He is right.

At Memory Matters, I have helped many caregivers navigate this process. Through the years I have grieved, prayed, laughed and reminisced with our Memory Matters families. I find the more peaceful caregivers are the ones who helped facilitate a peaceful passing for their family members. Let me explain.

Part of our role at Memory Matters is to help our family members continue on a path of care after their loved one is no longer appropriate for our program. Our staff will introduce resources such as home care, skilled care and hospice.

Typically, caregivers relate hospice to end of life, but it is so much more. What we emphasize to caregivers is not to wait to explore what services hospice organizations offer.

Having this information can be one of the best tools in your tool box to understand the importance of helping someone feel safe, loved, and comfortable when he or she is unable to communicate his or her needs to you.

One of the forms available at is called “Five Wishes.” The national version of this form was introduced in 1998, and the online version is now available.

The five categories of wishes are:

  • The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can’t
  • The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want
  • How Comfortable I Want to Be
  • How I Want People to Treat Me
  • What I Want My Loved Ones to Know

These items are so important to address in advance, especially related to type of care. It is difficult for a caregiver to just let someone go peacefully. If these things are known in advance, there will be no doubt that the caregiver is respecting the wishes of their loved one.

Death is part of life. No one escapes it. And it is comforting to know that people can make some decisions in advance. Then it is the responsibility of the family to honor these wishes.

There are more than 20 hospice organizations in this area. The basic mission statement is the same for each, but take the time to interview several because it is the people who work for a hospice that can make a difference in the care your loved one receives.

If you are caring for someone with any type of dementia and need support and information, make an appointment with a dementia care specialist at Memory Matters. Call 843-842-6688 or visit our website at

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head.