DEAR ABBY: "Overwhelmed in Arizona" wrote that she is helping her dad care for her dying mother, and feels isolated and overwhelmed by her feelings. She said: "The doctors now say there's nothing more they can do. Basically, Mom is at home waiting to die." You recommended an American Cancer Society support group.
Please invite her to explore hospice. Hospice lovingly accompanies patients, together with their families, during their final stage(s) of a terminal illness. While attending to the pain management needs of the patient, hospice also nurtures both patient and family through this difficult time, addressing all aspects (medical, nursing, social work and spiritual care) for all involved. Hospice makes dying about how you LIVE, all of you, in relationship with one another. And that very much includes those who will survive and have to come to terms with their loss. Many hospice organizations provide bereavement care and counseling to anyone who is grieving the death of a loved one.
By turning to hospice, "Overwhelmed" can shortly turn into "Loved and Nurtured in Arizona." -- VIOLA IN SEVERNA PARK, MD.
DEAR VIOLA: Thank you for reminding me about hospice and the important work it does. Hospice is a service for patients who have been told by two physicians they have six months or less to live. It is paid for by Medicare, most of the time at no cost to the patient, and non-Medicare patients can receive care through private insurance. (People without insurance are usually entitled to services for free, or at a reduced rate.) It is listed in the phone book under hospice or palliative care, or log onto www.hospicenet.org, www.hospicefoundation.org. or www.caringinfo.org.
DEAR ABBY: After reading the letter from the girl who said that she and her father were unable to talk about the mother dying of cancer, I had to write.
Imagine how isolated that poor mother must feel! I have survived two rounds of cancer in spite of the fact that I was not expected to. When I told my daughter (I am divorced) that I'd had a recurrence this year, she told me she was angry with me, because I have been "trying to die on her" for most of her life!
I can tell you from firsthand experience that the mother needs to hear it's all right for her to die, and that her daughter and husband love her, but will carry on and be fine. She needs to talk about the good times they have shared -- review photographs, movies, trips, etc. She needs hugs, body contact. Dying is lonely, cold and final. You feel that you have let your family down, disappointed them, and that they are terribly inconvenienced by your not being there for them. -- SHIRLEY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
DEAR SHIRLEY: Thank you for an extremely informative letter. I hope that those who read it will take what you have written to heart. I often hear from people who say they don't know how to act or what to say when someone is stricken with terminal illness. A young woman who is battling cancer put the answer succinctly in a letter to me: "I may have cancer, but I'm still the same person. I want my friends to talk to me like they always have, and about the same things."
As to your daughter, I think in a clumsy way she was trying to tell you she loves you. She's not mad at you for being sick. She's angry and probably frightened that the disease that has taken over your life twice is back again, and this time you may not be able to beat it. If she didn't love you, her reaction would have been indifference.