Thursday, February 23, 2012

Palliative Care – be in the present moment

When my mother was dying, in 2006, I was unable to find much information. As I sat in Ottawa, waiting to phone her after an appointment, or waiting for her call after an appointment in a far off town.
One of our Canadian resources provides support to those dealing with death and dying.
They answer questions and provide information for many facing the most important time of their lives. Here is a sample:

Emotions and Spirituality How can I support my husband who’s been diagnosed with cancer and is waiting for test results?
Waiting can add stress to an already uncertain situation. Some people say that waiting for health and treatment information is one of the most stressful aspects of being ill. There’s the frustration of waiting, and for some people there’s also fear of what the test results may be. The waiting period can be equally difficult for family and friends. They have the added frustration of wanting to help, but not knowing what to say or do...read more.
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I felt that I could add to this answer.
I was desperate for information, while I waited to hear the next bout of bad news from my late mother's latest results and appointments.
What bothers me in the news, and on Social Media, are all of these requests for support for causes.
'Send a tweet to cure cancer', or 'Walk for the cure'. Very little Social Media is devoted to real people making a real difference: to need transportation to appointments, a listening ear, someone to walk the dog, bring over a meal, rake the lawn, shovel the snow.
Those dealing with the reality of death and dying need to be recognized and supported in the present moment. Those waiting for test results can be helped. Those waiting with them can learn to find realistic hope.

I counsel my clients to live in the now. There was yesterday, there is today. This we know for sure. We can plan and prepare for the worst tomorrow, but wasting energy on what might be drains the care recipient and the caregiver of precious time. I once knew someone who spent 3 or 4 hours each night researching breast cancer cures for his late wife. These were hours he did not spend with his wife, or his now motherless children.

The "What If" Train
That 'what if' train comes barreling in the door, runs us down, and distracts us from our loved ones.
We know how much mind = body = spirit are connected. We know that biology (physiology), psychology, (thoughts, emotions and behaviours) and sociology (family, traditions, culture) have a profound influence on us all. So much so, that there are courses in biopsychological development. I know I've taken one!

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha


Keep your power
If you give worry your power, it will gladly take it from you. Your power should be centred in the heart of your being. Your power should be centred in living.

There are ways and means and ancient and modern techniques to get around this worry factor.

Some suggestions to help
1. Recognize worry - do not discount it, as it tells us we are in fear. Fear is a normal emotion. Be aware of times when worry is apt to derail you.
2. Practice mindfulness: Let your worry go. Acknowledge it, witness it as a normal reaction to stress. Then, let it go.
3.  Practice meditation. Buy some audiotapes to help you learn. Simply sitting, paying attention to your breathe as it flows into your body, into your lungs, and back out your mouth, is a very basic quiet meditation. Another strategy: breathe in on 4 counts, hold your breathe for 7, exhale for 8 counts.
4. Music soothes. Simply using music will help us in many ways. Music to relax by, to move by, to escape into. A wonderful Canadian resource is Room 217. I exchanged one of my books for a CD by Bev Foster. She was similarly presenting at a conference where I spoke in 2010. They now have relaxation DVDs, as well as music to play for those in a palliative condition.
5. Laud your hopes and dreams. Perhaps they change with a diagnosis of a palliative condition, then look for things on a daily basis to fulfill your dreams. The wish to share a laugh, see a favourite person, or caregiver, and
6. Write an abundance journal. For what are you grateful today? Specifically today. Do not mourn that which will not be. Celebrate that which is today. Take out family photos and celebrate the good times.
7. Draw into your life positive people. You have the right to limit your visitors, and control the type of energy present in your life. You need not tolerate angry, miserable visitors or hired caregivers. Speak to their supervisors.
8. Smile. Simply smile. Sit with a friend and create a smile. Find something to laugh over.
9. Forgive the past. Many of my clients dredge up past grudges. They spend their days harping over family fights, long-insignificant incidents and situations.
10. Become a minimalist. Many in palliative conditions push away the frills and trappings of their outer lives to focus on their inner lives. Accept this as a caregiver. Make each object in your space speak to you. Let go the which is unimportant. Draw unto you artifacts that celebrate good moments in your life. Do less. Focus on one task at a time.

1 comment:

Colleen Young said...

Jennifer, Thank you for this post and the mention of www.VirtualHospice.ca. I'd like to pick up on what is for me one of the most important statements in your commentary - "I felt that I could add to this answer." Indeed you could. Peer-to-peer information and support adds immeasurable value and this is the greatest achievement of the social web for health in my opinion. Patients helping patients. Caregivers supporting caregivers. Take for example the exchanges that are happening on Virtual Hospice's Discussion Forums - like this thread Long Distance Caregiving Challenges

This is information and support that you can only get from people who have been there. Thank you for adding your valuable insights for others who will one day travel a similar path and be searching for guidance from peers who have been there.