What if you were told by your doctor today that you will be experiencing pain and severe disability for the rest of your life?
One of the most difficult things to accept is being told that there is nothing more that the medicine can do to cure one’s illness. A normal reaction would be to deny the fact and produce an emotional release that may precipitate to violence and harsh words towards others. This could be followed by “Leave me alone” requests, until the sick person panics when physical symptoms of distress arise. Only after some time will one be able to accept the situation and adjust to reality.
During these moments, the presence of family and friends will be most valued. Studies show that a sick person’s quality of life is higher with better social support. There is a tendency for loved ones to leave sick relatives alone for prolonged periods of time because they also feel pain and anguish. However, as caring individuals, we must remain strong and show our love, support, and understanding during these trying times.
One of the most tragic situations I see in my practice as a family physician is visiting a sick parent at home whose children are away because they are too busy with other matters. Left with caregivers whom they hardly know, these parents experience more emotional pain rather than physical symptoms. I feel sad when I get to know how they feel before they can relay it to their children. Perhaps we really are starting to acquire attitudes that used to be unheard of among Filipinos – shunning away from taking care of sick parents and preferring that they be institutionalized or left to be cared for by professional caregivers.
While I understand the need to earn a living, there is no reason to avoid interacting with our parents when they reach the end of their lives. Let me tell you that I have personally learned so much about love and life listening to a dying person. I don’t remember morbid memories – I remember invaluable life lessons from their experiences that I can pass on to others.
Do you have a loved one with terminal illness today? Hug him or her today, hold hands, and say the words I love you, I am sorry, and I forgive you. Doing this today could change your perspective about life and make you learn more things about your existence. After all, wouldn’t we want to avoid having regrets in the end when things are already too late? Never avoid your sick relatives and make them feel alone. As far as I know, those who take care of their loved ones receive so many blessings in the end.