Saturday, January 02, 2010

My Thoughts and Prayers

When someone is ill, people pray, send good thoughts, send cards and letters, visit, call, bring food. bring plants and flowers and other presents and volunteer to help any way they can. It makes a difference, of course, that support and help. But it isn't a cure. It's not that support might not help you get well. It's just that the support that truly might help is the diligent relative or caregiver managing the real problem. In the end, no one can save anyone. Not forever not from everything.

If you think inserting yourself in pre-op patient prep room to pray helps medically you are wrong. You are in the way. If you think bringing a plant, a green jello concoction and telling relatives that they don't know what they are doing vis-a-vis the patient's care is just the ticket to restore your friend to the healthier person you enjoyed...well you are wrong, too. You might give your friend a nice visit and some hope but you aren't saving the day.

Cards and letters are appreciated and sometimes give the person the spirit to fight on, but they're not a cure. I was surprised that my sister saved funny letters I sent to her while she was fighting to recover from hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes. They were fun and she liked them which pleased me, but it was therapists, the family close to her, the docs and her will that got her somewhere, that helped her recover to a certain point. I sent the letters because I was far away and helpless to help her.

And when people say "if there is anything at all I can do?" Yeah, most don't mean anything really. Particularly not the tough hands on patient care. Certainly when I say it I don't mean it. It's hard enough when you are the primary caregiver and can't avoid it.

Dad's last ditch fix appears to have failed after three weeks or so. We went to the emergency room for the second time in the new year today. I am tired of being asked to speculate on what is happening inside him, what his doctors think. Yes, it' moderately helpful having me around to recite his facts since reading a chart seems to be a lost art. So I may actually help him get better or at least get comfortable. My thoughts and prayers, though? My opinion is that they are at best placebos. Maybe yours are more effective. But really I don't think so.

Today I will write a sympathy card to someone who is grieving. It won't really help the grief process but it is the right thing to do. Just like all those cards, letters, prayers and good thoughts coming my dad's way. They are mostly the right thing to do. Except get out of the way and don't second guess the caregivers.

7 comments:

Sarah said...

reading a chart seems to be a lost art--yeah, ain't it the truth. so many hours i spend in the icu with my SO, each medical person who comes in, making sure they're up to date on the latest in his chart, reciting the historical facts up to now, making sure nurses give latest changes in meds authorized by the most recent doctor, not old ones programmed into the computer. i feel like a harpy, just poised to strike at the least thing, but when i leave him and return, i find catheters that have slipped out and no one noticed, iv coming unwrapped, monitors indicating heart/breathing stress (beeping like crazy), heart meds that were supposed to be dropped included in dosages, etc. patient needs a spokesperson, because so many medical people don't read the chart, ignore the beeping. or is there some other reason...

Sarah said...

What I meant to say, I'm sorry about your Dad. I know how hard the last times are....

Melanie said...

So sorry that your Dad is not doing well. This hits home for me. My Dad and I took care of my Mom for the last few months of her life. Many relatives complained about her care, but yet they never came to visit. I got nasty emails and phone calls about the decisions we made. I was so tired of the "let us know if we can do anything" because no one meant it.

Linda Ball said...

Yeah, three years ago my dad and I were caregivers for my mom of the last three, long and frustrating months. For some reason, fewer people second-guessed the care, perhaps because she never got out of the hospital.

Forrest Preece said...

Melanie-- Exactly why I never say, "If there's anything I can do. . ." If somebody who's in a spot like this has some specific task in mind for me I figure they will ask and of course, I'll do it. (Of course, I'm horrible at small talk and trading cliches under any circumstances.)

One of my very best friends went through his wife's agonizing march to death a few years ago. He would get furious when people said, "I know how you feel." (Unless they had lost a spouse themselves and he'd nod in agreement.)

Forrest Preece said...

Sarah-- you are so right.

I could elaborate on what you wrote, but you put it perfectly. The lack of communication among all the doctors and nurses and med techs is appalling. I've watched Linda go through Hades with her mother in 2002 and now this gauntlet with her dad. As you said, each patient needs a spokesperson.

Melanie-- and what you said about the meddlers. Amen. Amen.

It's one thing to bring some food or a plant over say some kind words and then leave. It's another to dart in, plop down, start trying to take control of the situation for a hour or so, tell everybody who has been through the mill 24/7 for weeks on end that they don't know their ears from their elbows and then leave.

Louis said...

Rachel and I are thinking about you, Forrest and your Dad, Linda.