I must apologize to my readers for being slow in publishing this week, as it’s been one of those times.
I had a call from Barry’s wife, and had to make a dash to Sydney for a visit.
His cancer has spread quickly, and it was a case of move fast or miss out on being able to talk.
Today was the only day I could get away to see them, and it also happened to be my birthday, so it was definitely a time of mixed emotions.
Having known each other and hung out together since our teens, there was no way I wasn’t going to make the trip.
While I was there we talked about every thing from funerals, to euthanasia, life after death, and how to cope with it all.
Euthanasia and suicide in general are things that a lot of people are against as a rule, usually due to their faith, or prejudice.
As a Christian I have always had an opinion, and a belief on these issues, but I must admit that over the years I have been tested, and tested again. And today, yet again!
I was a health professional some years ago, and can remember a certain sense of relief for some who had passed away because of the pain that they had experienced.
Today, as I sat with Barry, and chatted with his wife Jeanne outside, I had to wrestle with the question again.
I’m not going to add to the argument here, either for, or against, but dignity in death is something that is important.
With the erosion of the extended family in Western society, it is easy for a spouse, or other primary caregiver to feel isolated and alone at times like this, and it is something that, as a society, we really need to work on.
Barry and Jeanne have been together for 38 years, and Jeanne is struggling with having to have him admitted to a palliative care unit.
My advice to her was that it easier for her to care for him while he is in the unit, rather than at home, and if she isn’t involved in constantly caring for his every need, then she can afford to relax, and just spend time with him.
After all, it takes two nurses to lift him in and out of bed, so what hope does she have of doing it alone?
Caring for the terminally ill is a complex task, both for the family of the patient, and the health care team.
Patients can be demanding, and can often come across as being unreasonable. But then, their life is slipping away, and from their viewpoint, they are in a totally unreasonable situation anyway.
Health care units everywhere today seem to be understaffed, and for staff running on a tight schedule it is often easy to forget the humanity of their patient, as well as failing to keep relatives ‘in the loop’ with everything that is going on.
A social network needs to exist in a situation like this where relatives can get sound advice about pain relief for their loved ones, grief counseling, and help with funeral arrangements.
Dying with dignity covers a lot of areas, and the actual means of departure is just one part of it.
I’m wondering how we as a society can help in taking away some of the stress of the worry about costs, the pain of grief and so on.
Is it our job to do so is probably a good place to start.
Should the Church take more of a role in helping to replace extended family?
Or should we look at the direction society is heading, and try and bring a correction by encouraging a strengthening of family ties?
In the meantime, my wife and I have decided that all we can do is to simply be there.