For those who have read the book “The Metamorphosis”, by Franz Kafka, there will be recognition of the ugliness that often follows major life changes. The traditional image of the family that lovingly stands by its members when any of them undergoes a horrendous alteration is struck down in that story of an average man who suddenly awakens one morning to find himself transformed into a giant dung beetle. The man’s family, rather than adjusting to the new circumstances and helping him cope, are repulsed and gradually find themselves planning how to get rid of their insect son and brother. Meanwhile the beetle-man has to deal with not only being cut off from society, his former lifestyle and very closest contacts, but must undergo the realization that his affliction repels his loved ones. Rather than experiencing compassionate care, he has become the object of disgust and rejection.
When life turns out much the same way for a person due to sudden or terminal illness, or an accident which leaves him/her in a debilitated state, that is often the way families and friends react. Certainly, in a hospital setting where staff are extremely busy, personal care with loving devotion isn’t to be expected. Visitors, however, can be helpful by not reacting with open shock at the patient’s appearance, somehow thinking that, conscious or not, a sick person can’t hear or understand anything (wrong!). When such a victim of illness or tragedy comes home, often to be bedridden or for a long, slow recuperation if any, that’s when things can get really nasty.
Not everyone is equipped either emotionally or by training to care for a seriously ill patient. There are specially-trained personnel at various levels who can come into a home and give whatever the person needs, however. When family members are alone in their struggle to deal with the demands and needs of someone who requires plenty of time and work, tempers can flare on both sides and long-held resentments can surface. Especially when the caregiver has other responsibilities and has difficulty balancing everything, the strain can break even the strongest person. In such cases, the caregiver can look into respite programs to help with all the needs that must be met.
To suddenly find yourself helpless, having to rely on others for even such tasks as going to the bathroom or eating and dressing, can rob you of all dignity and be frightening as well. In holistic care, the hospice setting can be an answer beneficial to both the patient and family when there is no hope of recovery. Caregivers and others involved with the patient will be working together to ensure the patient is not treated as an object or shuffled off into a corner to die alone. Life may not continue on forever or be experienced at the same level as before, but it can carry on till the end in as much peace and comfort as is possible. Just to know that the patient is not seen as a burden or as some disgusting thing but as deserving of loving care can make the difference between a peaceful ending and one of greater suffering.
Here in Detroit, for hospice information, check out:
Hospice of Michigan–400 Mack Ave., Detroit–313-578-6200 or 877-207-0039
Henry Ford Hospice–http://www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=37995