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?

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