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Is it possible that siblings might not agree?

I dropped by a friend’s house, Sarah, recently to catch up for coffee.  Sarah’s mother had had a fall that morning and her sister was taking her to the GP for a check up. Sarah said that she was becoming increasing frail and may need a little bit of help at home with the heavier household duties. I recommended an ACAT assessment and discussed other options of which one was having a private carer.

The next day Sarah called me and seemed a bit shaken – her mother had been taken to hospital – they suspected cancer. Unfortunately it was not good news and she was given weeks, possibly months to live.

Determined to bring her mother home with care – Sarah asked me once again if I could meet with her and her sister and explain the options of care to her as “she will want mum to come home as well” I organised to go the following day.

Confused by the healthcare system and their options. I explained what Palliative care was, how to organise a family conference, who from the hospital they could involve to answer questions, what care they will receive and of course the services which would be needed to be put in place to bring her home. I encouraged them to talk with their mother and understand what her wishes were regarding her “end of life plan” Sarah said that it would not be a problem to bring her home and looked around at her sister for her to vocalise her agreement.

And that is when I saw it – her sister was not on the same ‘wave length’ as Sarah. I could tell that this is not what she wanted.  The conversation continued for a few more minutes and I was thanked profusely for my time and politely and ever so subtlety dismissed. My time was up; Sarah enthusiastically thanked me for my time and said she would be in touch tomorrow to organise the finer details.

As I lay in bed that night thinking about Sarah – I wondered who would win – Sarah, her sister or Mum.

Two days later I heard from Sarah – she was distraught that she and her sister could not agree. She was upset that she had misunderstood her sister and did not realise that they may have different views.  Her mother was too weak to make a decision and had left it up to her children. The idea of not having her mother come home was just unthinkable to Sarah, but her sister would not budge.

Know your options and voice them early – because as we all know siblings don’t always agree.

Don’t leave it too late to get to know your GP

David, who is 60, is a lovely hospitable, gregarious gentleman. He has worked hard all of his life, has grown children, a beautiful house and money. He was and still is a bit of a flirt, but charming and full of life.

He has dementia.

He doesn’t remember his children’s names but can tell you that he once played Rugby at a national level. He has coffee at the same café every morning, smiles at the owners, talks incessantly and laughs with the customers, but he can’t remember what he drinks.

As I waited outside his house one morning to meet him, he walked towards me with his male carer, football in hand, a twinkle in his eyes, flushes cheeks and threw his head back laughing as he warmly greeted me and asked if I would like to go to Paris. He proudly showed me around his home, although he didn’t know how to open the back door or where he kept the coffee.

David’s dementia is slowly getting worse; he can’t negotiate crowds, ride on escalators, cross the street, prepare food or dress himself anymore.

He has a carer who attends to this.

He can throw a rugby ball, drink coffee and enjoy the sunshine and company of others. He enjoys riding his bike, wine, good food and talking about his plans for a European tour. But he believes his underwear goes on top of his head.

Concerned for David’s decreasing health I rang his GP and shared by concern and asked if I should make an appointment to have him reviewed. His GP did not want to hear my concerns but stated that he should be in a nursing home. I was shocked at this response; I informed him that David was safe with his carers and otherwise was in good health and enjoying life. Once again his GP was uninterested and stated that he was a risk – and should be put somewhere!

Not really prepared for this response I thanked him for his time and quickly ended the conversation. I wasn’t sure what “put somewhere” meant, and how David would continue to enjoy his lifestyle in a nursing home at 60.

I started thinking about my own GP and how he would react to this situation. I didn’t know! When it came to making lifestyle and health decisions for myself or my family, would he support my choices? I wasn’t sure!

I have known my GP for 10 years – and I was worried what his reaction would be. I started asking my friends and colleagues how well they knew their GP’s. The person that they trusted with their life. Surprisingly very few people could answer my question.

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Call us on 02 9362 5500