Sunday, June 24, 2012

Considerations for Families of Terminally Ill Patients

Back to my blog home page:

I am in the last week of this assignment! I absolutely cannot believe it. It has flown.

I have some grand plans on my break between this assignment and an extension at the same building into September. I am headed to Spain to walk a pilgrimage called El Camino de Santiago. You may have seen a movie called The Way which was directed by Emilio Estevez and whose main actor was his father, Martin Sheen. It's this path on which I will be trekking next week!

Anyway, I am working my last week on the initial contract at this facility, which I have come to appreciate....the therapy team, the residents, many others in the building, from the nurses to the dietary staff to the housekeepers.

They are good people.

So, my work week this week is Sunday through Thursday. Saturdays are always a great day to treat patients, but Sundays are sometimes a bit tough. Patients don't always want to work on Sundays.

I walked into Robert's room today. It was my first treatment with him. By the end of 45 minutes, I was pondering how amazing it is that people with terminal illnesses are able to achieve a level of intimacy with strangers like me that they are not always able to achieve with their own families with whom they have lived and loved for years.

Robert had dialysis yesterday.

I asked him about it. He was exhausted.

A word I have heard from dialysis patients often is WEARY.

Within five minutes, he shared with me that he was so tired that about six months ago, he had decided to go off dialysis and onto hospice. He could not take the strenuous schedule and the exhaustion he felt after each appointment.

Robert called a family meeting. His children could not accept it. He continued on dialysis. Because of them. Not his own needs. Theirs.

This is what so many people do. They hold on because their family members are not ready or willing to let them go. They hold on out of fear of what will happen to their elderly spouse if they pass. They just hold on.

And suffer.

I cannot judge this situation one way or another. I only know that I see so many older people suffer because they do not want to let their families down. I also know  -  and maybe this is because I work around long term care - that I would never want my parent to hold on because I didn't want them to die.

So, a note to family members of people with terminal illnesses: 

Consider letting your family member know that
  • you love them!
  • you do not want them to suffer!
  • if they feel they need to go, you support them on their journey beyond!

Can you imagine how much less suffering there might be if we could all just do that.....

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you Tre. It is so hard to let someone you love go, but it is often the greatest gift of love that you can give that person.

    Have a wonderful and safe trip!