There are two aspects of social living that form the social tasks that are important to a dying person. The first aspect involves the interpersonal attachments and interactions of the dying person while the second involves interactions with certain social groups within society or with society as a whole.
During a person’s life, regardless of length, (s)he is continually developing various interests. These may include politics, school, sports, work, religion, hobbies, friends, and acquaintances. However, as a person’s health begins and continues to decline, the energy to fully attend to all these can become too great. Just as a person added more interests and attachments over his/her life, now (s)he begins to shed the less important ones so that (s)he can give more attention and time to those that are truly important. This continues up to the very end as the person diminishes his/her circle of close friends or ignores topics such as politics or sports.
Obviously, there is no way for others to know what interpersonal tasks the dying person needs to focus on, and trying to define those tasks for another restricts that person’s basic autonomy. Each dying person needs to be able to decide what interests and attachments are important to him/her. Within this aspect of interpersonal attachments, the dying person has two sets of tasks: those undertaken of his/her own behalf and those undertaken involving the interests of others involved individuals. For example, a dying person may decide to forego any further curative treatments since they are too difficult to bear and show little promise of being beneficial. This is the task undertaken for the person’s own benefit. Simultaneously, that person may have to help others accept the decision and the implication of what that decision means. This is a task undertaken involving the interests of others. In the same vein, caregivers may have to weigh taking time away from caregiving to recharge against the need of the dying person for companionship and security.
Interactions With Society and Its Groups
The second set of social tasks involves interactions with society itself. As with the rest of life, dying involves interfacing with societal rules, regulations, and behavioral norms. There are still societal requirements about protection from harm, the proper turning over of property to heirs, cultural and religious customs, etc. For example, even the dying are expected to pay hospital bills and income taxes.