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  #1  
Old May 3, '07, 5:24 pm
AndyF AndyF is offline
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Default Dying Elderly

There is an elderly man I know who is dying of cancer. He lives comfortably in a chronic care home and is well cared for with meals brought to his flat and regular medical assistance.

He had his first cancer operation and now the tumor has returned and needs another. He is very depressed and his family are all out of town, but one daughter comes to town to handle his needs and he enjoys the weekends of her visit.

I don't know how to present myself with him. If I plan to be cheerful, I say to myself that would be inappropriate. I thought I could bring magazines on a subject he enjoyed, but I doubt now they have any importance to him. I could talk about the positive aspects of the afterlife, but that would be presumptious(miracles happen), besides I don't know him that deeply.

He shuns social interaction at the home. That I feel puts an extra burden on his family and those who visit as he could get comfort from them in some ways also. He is desperate for conversation, but doesn't help by withdrawing, complaining and finding something wrong with the residents. A part of the problem I realize is our modern generation. The situation he is in I feel is abnormal anyway. Years ago he would be with his children being taken care of by them in their home. In 3rd world countries and some cultures of today, the family responsibility still includes care of aged parents.

So I don't know how to act with him. I usually force myself cheerfully to talk about anything to kill time, but the conversation goes dead immediately. Of course he is preoccupied with this anxiety and I don't blame him. Perhaps it is OK to just sit and say nothing, but I don't know how to do that without mistakenly risking the impression I would rather leave and of course I don't.

What are your thoughts.?

AndyF
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  #2  
Old May 3, '07, 5:46 pm
the phoenix's Avatar
the phoenix the phoenix is offline
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

1) You say you plan to be cheerful but wonder if that would be inappropriate. That depends. Is the cheerfulness genuine, or forced? Does it bring a breath of fresh air and reality into the room like sunlight through an open window, or is it politeness out of not quite knowing what to say?

2) DO BRING IN THOSE MAGAZINES. He may complain he doesn't like them ... Okay, no need to make a big deal, but you can leave them on a table in case he changes his mind. He may just decide to sneak a peek after you leave and no one's looking.

When my Dad, who had a subscription to the Limbaugh Letter, had a stroke, one of my relatives said not to bother renewing it since his reading level had gone down to that of a third-grader. But knowing what a fan of Rush Dad is, I said, "Well fine then, I'm bringing the magazines anyways, and if the only enjoyment he can get is from looking at the pictures, then that's what he'll get." With the help of those magazines, Dad taught himself to read again ... and afterwards went on to publish an article on genealogy on the internet.

3) As for religion, since you don't know his background, you could always simply volunteer to pray with him.

4) As for him withdrawing from people, complaining, and finding fault with the residents ... for some reason I just tend to get along good with grumpy elderly people, and I even tend to like them better than "normal" people. Maybe it's because they don't scare me off,and they can sense that I recognize and even enjoy their bit of fire. IMHO, he wants to make sure that he's dealing with sincere, real people ... not shallow ones who won't take the time or make the effort to get to know him, so his behavior is both a defense and a testing. These types of people fascinate me, so I listen, pay attention, and am interested ... and they somehow know that. But I don't act as a superior, nor do I pity them ... that would only turn them off.

You're very right about how in the past and in third world countries, families would band together to care for their own sick and elderly ..... What was lacking in scientific medical technology was made up for with love.

Hopefully some of this helps.

~~ the phoenix
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  #3  
Old May 3, '07, 9:35 pm
StCsDavid StCsDavid is offline
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

Your presence with him probably does more good than you realize. Just be yourself. God has put you with this person and the reason may be simply that the old man needs a loving soul to simply be there. You are doing a good thing. Christ will help you.
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  #4  
Old May 4, '07, 4:31 am
AndyF AndyF is offline
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

Thanks for the help!!!

I'll bring in those mags anyway.

AndyF
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  #5  
Old May 4, '07, 6:19 am
cheeto1 cheeto1 is offline
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

Bless you sir, you have recognized the work of God and done it.
No matter what you do or say, your visit will not be wasted. If
there is something you can do for one of his problems, God
Himself will show you. Otherwise, know that just your visit in and
of itself is enough for God. If you bring him anything, he will see
it while you are gone and remember your visit. It's all right to
leave if you don't feel comfortable staying any longer. It's your
visit he will remember, not the length of it. Remember, you are
not there to "present yourself to him" in a certain way, but just to
be there so he knows someone cares. I am very proud of you
Don't you love it when someone is cheerful because they are
happy to see you?
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  #6  
Old May 4, '07, 7:09 am
Light Seeker Light Seeker is offline
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

I never have had any problems interacting with elderly, particularly the terminally ill. Things I've learned ...

- never be 'fake'. If you're not a cherry upbeat person, don't pretend to be. This is nothing more than patronizing, and a wise elder will spot this immediately and resent it.

- never underestimate an elders knowledge, perception, or wisdom. Usually, they've learned a thing or 2 on their journey. I've frankly learned more from just talking with older folks than any school, college, an yes, even Church, has taught me. The biggest mistake I often see is caregivers treating the elderly as children, which frankly, would tick anybody off.

- the majority of elders, unlike general population, want to talk about religion. They are dying, and they know it. And they are anxious on whats to come, its on their mind all the time. But you need to gain their respect & friendship before they open up to you.

- don't avoid the death topic, or change the conversation. Again, they realize where they are.

- Never 'preach'. Listen. Sometimes you will be amazed at their wisdom. Ask questions, & assume a teacher/student relationship. But never be condescending. They'll know if you are.

Above all, have a sense of humor. And treat him the same way you will want to be treated, years from now.
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  #7  
Old May 4, '07, 2:05 pm
AndyF AndyF is offline
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Posts: 1,537
Default Re: Dying Elderly

Seeker,Cheeto:

Thanks for the excellent and useful advice. I'll keep these in mind at the next visit.

AndyF
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  #8  
Old May 4, '07, 2:30 pm
quasimodo quasimodo is offline
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Join Date: May 16, 2004
Posts: 945
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndyF View Post
There is an elderly man I know who is dying of cancer. He lives comfortably in a chronic care home and is well cared for with meals brought to his flat and regular medical assistance.

He had his first cancer operation and now the tumor has returned and needs another. He is very depressed and his family are all out of town, but one daughter comes to town to handle his needs and he enjoys the weekends of her visit.

I don't know how to present myself with him. If I plan to be cheerful, I say to myself that would be inappropriate. I thought I could bring magazines on a subject he enjoyed, but I doubt now they have any importance to him. I could talk about the positive aspects of the afterlife, but that would be presumptious(miracles happen), besides I don't know him that deeply.

He shuns social interaction at the home. That I feel puts an extra burden on his family and those who visit as he could get comfort from them in some ways also. He is desperate for conversation, but doesn't help by withdrawing, complaining and finding something wrong with the residents. A part of the problem I realize is our modern generation. The situation he is in I feel is abnormal anyway. Years ago he would be with his children being taken care of by them in their home. In 3rd world countries and some cultures of today, the family responsibility still includes care of aged parents.

So I don't know how to act with him. I usually force myself cheerfully to talk about anything to kill time, but the conversation goes dead immediately. Of course he is preoccupied with this anxiety and I don't blame him. Perhaps it is OK to just sit and say nothing, but I don't know how to do that without mistakenly risking the impression I would rather leave and of course I don't.

What are your thoughts.?

AndyF
Let him guide you.

listen

don't try to solve problems for him

let him know he is being heard by small verbal and non-verbal responses

ask a few clarifying questions if necessary to let him know you are paying attention

listen

Be present

listen

pray
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  #9  
Old May 4, '07, 4:11 pm
Evan Evan is offline
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

My brother-in-law was a nurse at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Clinic. The patients know the situation but don't need to be reminded. Everything he ever wore to work looked like he was leaving for Hawaii after work.

Remember, he may live another year, whereas your soul may be demanded of you this very night. You still enjoy life, help him to do the same.
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Evan
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  #10  
Old May 6, '07, 10:52 am
Tatyanna Tatyanna is offline
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Join Date: March 23, 2007
Posts: 750
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

I would just sit and say nothing because he knows you are there, it may be just enough for him. You could always just pray a Chaplet of the Divine Mercy and pray the rosary.
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  #11  
Old May 6, '07, 2:00 pm
mary bobo mary bobo is offline
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Posts: 8,498
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Default Re: Dying Elderly

It is so kind of you to be so thoughtful this this gentleman. I do volunteer work at a hospice and we have found that sometimes just being there is important. But it never hurts to encourage him to tell you about his family. If there are pictures in the room, that could open the conversation. You could ask him what work he did when he was working. Sometimes a sick one likes to recall the important times in his life and work is usually something one is proud of. You could offer to run errands for him, get something he might like to eat besides hospital food. You could ask if he would like you to read to him. Those are things we do at hospice and it really does make a difference in the lives of the patients.
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