Dealing with the family members of dying clients is like walking a circus tightrope. One has to be very careful with their choice of wording. Families are under extreme pressure trying to maintain their daily lives while dealing with a dying loved one. Yesterday was Betty Davis’s 6 month evaluation with Hospice. Her daughter came home from work early to be there with mom.
Betty’s daughter is like a blonde Liza Minnelli in appearance so we will call her Liza. I don’t deal with her very often in person. We mostly communicate through notes to each other. She is usually at work when I arrive so I meet every morning with her husband. This is Liza’s third marriage (her husband’s too), but they have been married now for 13 years. I’m not sure who the drinker is in this house, but based on the amount of Captain Morgan on hand I’m guessing both.
Both Betty, and Liza were worried that Betty would be removed from Hospice’s care. They were both equally anxious about the possibility. I tried to reassure them both that this would not be the case as gently as possible, but Liza persisted until I had to explain in the most honest way I could. The problem here is that the truth is quite brutal, and I don’t know Liza well enough to know the best way to deal with her. So I began with “Mom’s condition continues to decline, and Hospice will view this as reason enough to keep Mom under their care.”
Liza snapped back “What do you mean? Mom is not declining, have you noticed a decline since you started working here?” Now in my line of work every alarm in my head is sounding off “DANGER G-uno Danger!” So I pulled out two bar stools motioning for us both to sit (somehow sitting seems less harsh) then I softly say “Yes Liza Mom is declining.” She is still on defense mode, and says “How do you know this, why are you saying this?” So I softly say ” There are physical signs that begin to occur when someone with Mom’s illness begins to decline.”
At this point I am silently begging “The Universe” to let this be enough for Liza to let this subject rest, and of course no such luck. Liza grabs my hand, and pleads with me to just tell her what I see. Then I could feel the tears welling in my eyes, and I’m pretty sure she could hear the sound of my heart cracking. I place my other hand on top of her’s, and I say “Mom’s breathing is becoming increasingly more labored. I ask her if she noticed that Mom’s hands were changing in any ways that she may have noticed.” She said “No!” ( I want to kick “The Universe”in the balls now!) So I softly say Mom’s hands are darkening now because her lungs & heart are having a more difficult time delivering oxygen to them.”
I can see at this point that she is breakable. I hug Liza, and I tell her that she is an amazing daughter. I tell her that I am overwhelmed by her love for Mom. She began to cry she is bothered by the fact that her Mom tells me more regarding her thoughts, and health concerns. She wants to share this with her mother. She feels like my bond with her mother is becoming stronger than theirs.
I am in agony at this point, but then I know what needs to be said (Sorry “Universe” lost my faith there for a moment) so I place both hands on the sides of Liza’s face. Then looking her directly in the eyes I tell her “Your Mom is still your Mom, and she will try to protect you no matter what. She does not share these things with me out of love, I am her caregiver. She is not concerned about my feelings in this capacity. You are her world! She loves you more than life itself, and this is momma bear’s way of shielding the one she does love, and trust more than anyone else in the world.”
I saw both heartbreak, and relief in Liza’s eyes. Sometimes the truth is the only way to go. 😉
There is two of us actually, G-uno and g2. We have been friends for a while, met through our own similarities in duality, openness and love of listening. Our differences as well as our similarities always border on the extreme.