Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Caseload Check-in

Just before Thanksgiving I was inundated with new patients. I thought I was going to go crazy! Since then, my caseload has dropped to an all-time low of 32. I've had a lot of patients come and go shortly after being admitted. It's strange but nice to be able to focus more time and attention on my regular patients. It's unusual for this time of year, to be sure, but maybe this is God's Christmas gift to me. When my caseload ratchets back up to normal levels, I'll have to remember this calm before the storm.

Merry Christmas everyone! And to all who are grieving or going through difficult times, may you be warmed by the loved ones around you and comforted by God's presence and love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's official!

I just got the letter from ADEC today: I passed the test and am now an official thanatologist. I also have another set of initials after my name (CT). Hurrah!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Goal Work

The other day I took a patient and his wife to Africa. Or rather I took Africa to them. No longer able to travel, this patient particularly regretted never having been to Africa or getting to experience a safari. Thanks to the library, I found the DVD set "Untamed Africa" which allowed us to see the wildlife up close. I also rented 2 African music CDs to play during lunch. And then I cooked West African Chicken Stew and South African Malvapoeding, which were both big hits. Of course, this can't completely make up for an actual trip to Africa but I figure it's worth a glimpse. The patient and his wife really enjoyed themselves, which is what really matters. And I was literally in heaven during this visit: helping a patient meet a goal and cooking for others. I wanted to pinch myself. This is the kind of day I need to remember when burn out starts to creep in.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Playing the Expert

Recently I've been asked for my professional opinion in personal settings. This morning a friend called and asked me to speak with her mom. Mrs. X's mom has been battling cancer and the MD just told them that the cancer is no longer responding to treatment. She may have just a few weeks to live. The family was to meet with their local hospice but Mrs. X was anxious and wanted to talk things through with me. Her mom wants to die in her home. While Mrs. X's dad is still living, he is not capable of caregiving so Mrs. X and her siblings would be filling that role. She wanted to know if she would be crazy for taking this on. We talked through the situation. I educated on the hospice benefit and how the staff will support the family. I was blunt in relaying the demands of caregiving but I also encouraged her regarding the gift of caregiving. I believe that caring for a loved one at the end of life (or really any point in their lifetime) may be one of the greatest gifts we can give them. One must be aware of their physical and emotional limitations before taking on this responsibility. There are also financial considerations, whether people are able to take time off from work, etc. I know that Mrs. X is up to the task and I was more than willing to talk through the logistics. She's a strong Christian and pointed to the blessings God has given them through this trial. Her mom's illness has allowed family to come in from all over the world to visit one last time and Mrs. X can point to so many ways God has been taking care of them. When I hung up the phone, Mrs. X felt more confident in her ability to take care of her mom and in utilizing hospice. She was appreciative of the information I could give her and I was glad to do it. Sometimes I wish that my expertise didn't meet people in their darkest hour. Last weekend I spent time talking to a friend whose mother died a month ago. We talked about facing the first holidays without her. I helped her problem solve Christmas and coping skills. I normalized her grief experience. She told me she has one other friend that gets how she's doing but most people in her life just want her to be happy again. It makes me cringe to think about! Again, I'm glad I can be there for her but wish it wasn't for this reason. My heart goes out to my friend and Mrs. X. I can't change their circumstances but I can be there for them. I just wonder: Why does it seem "easier" to help strangers?