Sunday, July 16, 2006

Work comes home

This has been a whirlwind week in every sense of the word. Work has been crazy, not because of a high caseload but because of high need patients. Things have been going smoothly the last few weeks so I knew it was only a matter of time before everything got kicked up a notch. What I didn't count on was work hitting so close to home. On Tuesday my great-aunt Teresa was diagnosed with brain tumors; it is actually a secondary cancer but they will not be further testing to find where the primary cancer is. Teresa is developmentally disabled with the cognitive abilities of a 6-8 year old. She has lived with my grandparents for probably over 30 years. My grandma decided not to tell Teresa what is happening because 1) so far she has no pain issues and does not seems to be aware of her decline and 2) it would scare and upset her greatly. On Wednesday my mom accompanied my grandma and Aunt Teresa to the doctor to discuss options. Basically Teresa has 3 to 4 months left and the doctor recommended hospice. At this point I was not aware of Teresa's diagnosis so I was pretty confused when my mom called to get the number for my agency. She called me back after leaving the doctor and filled me in. Such a shock. I don't think anyone in the family has really comprehended it yet. On Thursday Teresa was admitted to my hospice. There was a bit of dialog between me and my supervisor regarding what role I should play, since my grandparents technically live in my territory and my grandma requested that I be the social worker. I was ready to respect whatever decision Joyce made. In the end they decided that I should just be a family member instead of the social worker and in hindsight, I think it's the best. I was able to pick the team that will be working with them which was a huge weight off of my mind. I really like all of my coworkers but it's funny how things change when it comes to your family. Yesterday I went out to the farm and spent time with everyone. I was really unprepared to see how declined Teresa is. I hadn't seen her since Father's Day and there is such a marked difference. She has to use a walker now and at times it seems like she does not remember how to walk. It's been an emotional week and I'm not able to think about life without Teresa in it yet. It's been good to shepherd my family through the hospice admission and answer questions. They are getting a better sense of what I do, ironically. I suppose at the very least this will help me relate better to my patients and families. We used hospice for my great-uncle 12 years ago but I don't remember much about that. To be a part of this journey and to use my own expertise to help my family is a blessing. I pray that God will comfort us and give us strength for whatever comes our way.

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