Recently I visited a lady at her home who was a palliative care patient. She was seated on the couch in the living room with a turban on her head and a look of anxiety and depression. Her husband was quiet during the entire visit. He was seated in a chair next to the couch and just looked at his wife and did not participate in the conversation. Her son was seated next to her and tried to provide what comfort he could as he was searching for ways to comfort his mother. He felt out of control, and he knew he could not fix things. He could not wave a magic wand and make his mother better.
I saw their needs with their facial expressions. I listened to their needs as she spoke about feeling anxious. She was aware of her physical condition as she said she was unable to walk like she used to and enjoy the outdoors. I listened attentively. How could I help her? What could I do to alleviate her discomfort for how she was feeling? She mentioned she had two dogs who brought her joy. She had them locked up in the other room so they would not jump up during my visit. So now I understood that she wanted to feel peace of mind, to laugh, to enjoy moments where she was not thinking of her situation. I told her that I listen to meditation music, and I suggested she try this every day in the morning and in the evening and whenever she felt her anxiety escalating. I told her that it had made a difference for me as meditation does change the brain as the studies have shown.
As I watched her face become animated as she spoke about the two energetic dachshund dogs she so enjoyed, I suggested that she watch YouTube videos on funny dogs. I told her about the one I especially liked when a lady brings her dogs to get ice cream and how she must tell one dog to wait for his turn for the ice cream otherwise there would be nothing left for his smaller friend as he would eat the entire cone in one fell swoop. She laughed at the description of this video. She was happy to hear about this idea of watching funny animals and was excited to try it and begin her search for the videos. She wanted to laugh and did not know how, as she was focused on her everyday routine and her medical diagnosis.
Her son escorted me to his mother’s bedroom when I asked to be shown to the other parts of the home to evaluate any safety issues. When we arrived in the bedroom, he had tears in his eyes. He then turned around and gave me a hug. He said, “Thank you for helping my mom.”
I was so surprised that such simple suggestions could make such a positive impact on this family. Listening to the needs of others, understanding where they are physically and emotionally and then suggesting ideas to alleviate their discomfort will make a memorable impact. As I look back on this visit, I realize that it was empathy and compassion felt for this lady and her family that made the difference to them and for me. I was vulnerable too by letting her know that I also listen and watch YouTube videos on meditation and funny animals as they are uplifting. We all need to help one another. The gift of listening, understanding, and suggesting can go a long way in helping ourselves and others. I left that visit feeling that I had contributed to that family’s well-being.
Joyce Hyam is a nurse.
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