Chapter 1: Exploring feelings while living with a serious diagnosis

A need for closeness and intimacy

We talked about how our paths were diverging, and what was important to each of us. It was important we could be honest with and trust each other.

Touch and intimacy are essential human needs that affect all of us regardless of age, gender, and the nature of our relationships. Couples who have less opportunity to hold each other may miss that physical closeness. Children also need the opportunity for close physical contact.

Sometimes the healthy partner in a relationship may miss sexual contact and feel guilty for feeling desire when the ill partner is suffering. Such desire is normal. While intimacy may play out in a different way in the context of palliative care, any form of closeness between couples often provides an opportunity for expressions of affection, devotion, and love. Promoting good feelings with gentle stroking of any part of the body is a great gift that the patient can receive from their partner, and perhaps give in return.

Time alone to explore intimacy is an important aspect of end-of-life care. Finding ways to ensure privacy should be a consideration in any setting.