Visiting Ill Relative

Updated on February 15, 2010
K.K. asks from Sudbury, MA
8 answers

I have two toddlers, both under 3 yo. My husband wants us all to visit his terminally ill uncle this month. His uncle means the world to him, and I understand he wants him to see the kids. My only concern is what the kids' reaction will be. He is on a feeding tube and ventilator. We will be staying with them for several days. My kids are very bright, know he is sick, but likely do not fully understand what that means. Has anyone had similar experience? Would be interested to hear if so,
Thank you,

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answers from Washington DC on

We just went through this. When we went to visit hubby's aunt, we went alone. We explained to the kids that she was sick. I wasn't going to give my daughter (3y) the option of going. We asked my son (8y), and he said that he didn't want to go. He didn't want that to be his last memory of her.

So the kids stayed with the Grandparents, and we went alone.

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answers from Boston on

I'm in this situation right now. My Dad is terminal right now and I've opted not to let the kids see him. He had surgery two weeks ago. Before that they spent alot of time with him. I want their memories of him to be him playing and joking with them, no the scary hospital sounds and smells. Ventilators sound like monsters to little kids. I'm sure the uncle would understand!!



answers from Providence on

Hi, this is really a personal family decision, but in my experience this year, we brought our 2.5 year old to see his 14 year old cousin who was dying of cancer. As soon as we walked in the room, his cousin's eyes lit up. At first my son wasn't being careful of the oxygen cord, but once we showed him, he was very careful, he wasn't afraid of it, and it was a very special last visit. I am so glad he was able to see his cousin and I will never forget his oldest cousin rubbing his head and telling him goodbye. Since you're kids are young, you don't have to explain the whole death/dying thing to them. And in my opinion, everyone will benefit from the visit.



answers from Boston on

I haven't dealt with this yet but will be soon. My mother-in-law has is starting to get this way and I've already told my husband it's no place for our kids. They are both under 3 as well. I don't feel it is appropriate for them to see her so sick, they don't understand and I don't want the older one to have nightmares about it.
I would suggest not bringing the kids and show the uncle pictures. In the end it could upset the kids and really how much fun is the visit going to be for the kids or you if they start to cry and have a melt down when see all the tubes and such on his uncle.
The decision shouldn't be made around where the uncle wants to see the kids but whether it's appropriate for the kids to be there. They are the one's that will be dealing with the affects of the situation.

Good luck,
L. M



answers from Boston on

Hello There,
My grandmother was 102 when she died. She was bedridden in a nursing home for at least 10 years and was very frail and looked it. As soon as my son was 3 months old AND until he was 4 (when she died), I brought him to see her often, as I knew how much incredible JOY it brought her. I was concerned as my son got older that he would be uncomfortable in the nursing home setting where you see varying degrees of illness/medical conditions. He was fine and I think it was important for him to see that and be comfortable with it. And, really, it was so good for me, too, to see how much his presence made my grandmother perk up and smile! She really didn't have much else in her life that brought her happiness. And, like another woman wrote, bring quiet toys and activities and snacks for them. Good luck with your decision.



answers from Dallas on

My children went to see their greatgrandmother when she was terminal. They were 10,6, 3, and and infant. They did ask questions. However we explained as much to them as they could understand at the time. We raise our children in a religious up bringing, so we explained that Granny would go to heaven next. And it was okay to be sad about missing her but to be happy because she would no longer be in pain. The older kids had more of a hard time then our 3 year old. It's been a year and she'll talk about Granny but not about the hospital setting, so I don't think it tramatized her. She never mentions it and didn't have any issues with it.
Just a tip, the kids get pretty bored in that type of enviroment, so I would bring quite toys, coloring books ect... Plan on taking breaks outside for awhile too.


answers from Hartford on

I think your children will be fine. They'll probably ask questions, so you can let them know ahead of time what to expect in very simple terms. They'll see some tubes and machines that look funny but they're intended to help Uncle Larry breath and get medicine into his body because he's very sick right now. Kids adjust very quickly, so if you're worried that they'll be traumatized I have a feeling that they'll be fine.

However, I think you need to call the hospital first to see if the children are even allowed to visit. Many hospitals are not allowing children in as visitors into ICU's, maternity wards, hospices, and other wards because it's the middle of the seasonal flu season and because H1N1 flu is still a huge concern. It may be a moot point on whether or not you bring the children.



answers from Boston on

When my dad was dying of cancer, my two oldest children were very young like yours. I brought them almost every day. My dad loved it, even in the end and he was hooked up to all those medical devices. Its a part of life. It will not harm or hurt your small children. Show them photos and or try to explain what they will see in a good manner.


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