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.