Question: How do you handle your personal struggles when you have a family member or friend placed under hospice care and you are a hospice professional? How do you deal with personal feelings versus your professional knowledge?
First and foremost, when you have someone that you are emotionally involved with on hospice, you remove yourself from the team. You are the daughter, son, friend, or whatever your role in that personal relationship. You are not a hospice professional for that person.
Second, while your knowledge of end of life care, symptom management and signs of approaching death are useful, know that your ability to be objective is compromised and cannot be relied upon.
I’ll tell you a story to make my point. When my mother was on hospice in my home (and I was the director of that hospice), I told the team that in this particular case I was not “Barbara, Hospice Director” but a frightened, worried and tired “Barbara, Dorothy’s Daughter.” One day I was talking to my hospice nurse and asked her how long she thought we had. My husband, who was walking by at the time, was surprised I would ask that question. This was an area in which I had expertise and I had even trained that particular nurse! In that situation I was a daughter whose mother was dying, not a hospice professional.
It is so much easier to care for, empathize with, guide and support strangers. With strangers we have no history. We can be in the now, the present, with them. We can see and react to them as they are in any given moment. When we are caring for someone we have a history with, whether it is positive or negative and remember there are challenges in every relationship, that history dictates how we will interact. We cannot be the best professional that we can be if we are emotionally involved. We cannot be the best daughter, son, wife, husband, sibling or friend that we can be if we try to be the professional.