Caregiver Says This Is the Number One Regret of Patients at the End of Their Lives

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Apr 21, 2024

Towards the end of people’s lives, many are often filled with gratitude or deep regrets for not having lived as they would have liked.

One caregiver, who’s spent her life working with dying patients, opened up and shared what people really think and feel towards the end of their lives and what the most common regret is. 

Caregiver Looks After Dying Patients

Living an authentic life true to what we really love can be problematic in the modern era. More often than not, we get caught up in the day-to-day tasks and forget to live in the moment. 

An image of a nurse looking after a patient in their home

Source: Freepik

However, one caregiver who has worked with terminally ill patients suggests we should stop taking life for granted. 

The Top Five Regrets of Dying

Bronnie Ware has been a caregiver for nearly a decade. During this time, she has cared for numerous people who have been given anywhere as little as three to 12 weeks to live. 

An image of Bronnie Ware dressed in a blue shirt


As much as she provided physical support, Ware has realized over the years that emotional support was just as important. She provided the dying with someone to talk to and recorded many of their final thoughts in her book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

Patients Share Their Worst Regrets

Throughout the book, Ware mentions that during the final chapter of a person’s life, they begin to share their various regrets. 

An image of an older woman lying on a hospital bed speaking with a doctor

Source: Freepik

The patients’ regrets vary from time to time, from wishing they had expressed their feelings more to working less. However, one typically ranks above all else. 

The Most Common Regret of the Dying

Ware revealed the most common regret of all the patients she has encountered over the years was their inability to live authentically. 

An image of a nurse checking up on a patient in her ward

Source: Freepik

The worst regret was: “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” she wrote.

Ware Suggests We Should Chase Dreams

According to Ware, we should stop focusing on things that don’t matter in the long run and shift our focus to chasing our dreams.  

An image of a woman dressed in a brown shirt as she is seated at a wooden table, smiling

Source: Freepik

“It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way before it is too late,” she writes.


Don't Take Your Health for Granted

In her book, Ware says people should strive to achieve their dreams while they are fit and able, because once health begins to decline, so does freedom. 

An image of a woman running along a path beside a park

Source: Freepik

“Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.”


Live Your Best Life

High-performance psychologist and author Michael Gervais referenced much of Ware’s work when speaking on how he helps his clients live their best lives. 

An image of several friends gathered together in a backyard

Source: Freepik

According to Gervais, being aware of our morality allows us to better distinguish between what’s important and what’s frivolous. 


Forget the Empty Pursuits

Gervais is under the impression that much of society spends their time chasing empty pursuits, which our modern culture validates. 

A woman is pictured sitting in front of a fancy car

Source: Freepik

Instead of trying to own an expensive car or a broad social media following, realign your focus to spend time in a meaningful manner on things that align with your passions and happiness. 


Start With a Clean Slate Today

The psychologist suggests people shouldn’t wait until the end of their lives to contemplate regrets. 

An image of a woman enjoying a morning coffee as they write in her journal

Source: Freepik

Instead, for a few moments each morning, think of what you don’t want to regret. This will motivate you to start with a clean slate and become the person you truly want to be. 


Regrets Don't Change With Time

According to Gervais, regrets don’t change with time. So, we should focus on getting rid of them earlier in life.

A small family is pictured walking through the park on a sunny afternoon

Source: Freepik

“If you wish you were more present for your two-year-old daughter, you are likely going to have that same regret four decades from now. If you regret opting for the comfort and familiarity of your current job rather than reaching for the stars, you will likely have a similar regret down the road,” he said.


Live in the Moment

The ultimate piece of advice offered by Gervais would be to live in the moment. Be gracious for each moment you spend with friends, family, and even strangers.

An image of a father and son as they walk through a park

Source: Freepik

If there’s one thing Gervias and Ware agree on, it’s that time continues to tick, whether you’re chasing your dreams or not. Identify the regrets today and work towards living a more meaningful life.