Ungrateful Family Members

No, I’m not talking about teenagers here. Though what I have to say applies to any ungrateful person encountered.

As a hospice nurse, I am in a position of using my knowledge and intuition to serve persons that will likely die in a short time and their family members. I have a lot of compassion for these people and I put my heart and mind into the work. We work long days, sometimes at inconvenient hours.

Most of the people that we hospice workers serve appreciate our work and caring and let us know with words of appreciation and encouragement, coffee and cookies. Sometimes they are so impressed with the work we do, they come join us. Nurses, volunteers, social workers.

Every now and then, I encounter a family member that just can’t be pleased. Like the caregiver for the patient who needed her Morphine pump adjusted the day of the blizzard. I started shoveling my driveway at 5am. At 9am, I called and told them I would be out to see the patient as soon as I got un-snowbound. At 10am, I finished up, with the help of my neighbor and his snowblower. The roads were treacherous, still I showered and got there before noon.

This family member complained to my boss that I was not compassionate, and that I let her loved one suffer unnecessarily.

When conflict with another human arises about what should be doing, I like to ask myself, “Is this my problem?” Or is it their problem?

Have I applied myself the to task at hand with the best of my abilities?

Does the other person have unreasonable or uneducated expectations about what I can do? Have I communicated to the other person my expectations for my role in the matter?

If I have done all these things it is likely that it is not my problem, but their problem. And if it is not my problem, I don’t have to carry it around with me.

Whew. I feel lighter already.

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5 responses to “Ungrateful Family Members

  1. Oh Fawn,
    This is so unfair! I guess sometimes (particularly when one is focussed on only one thing) a person can lose the Big Picture, and most especially not see that you gave your all to BE the compassionate hospice nurse here. So good that you can recognize it is not YOUR problem and that you did everything you could. And great questions you asked yourself that we can apply to our own life situations too. Thanks for posting this.

  2. I first came up with the “Is it my problem/Is it their problem?” idea when I was in a complicated relationship with a man and I was working through a lot of my old issues at the same time that he was working through his. Thanksfully, we were able to communicate really well about our experiences with each other and when conflict arose, sort through all the ick to find healing. He remains one of my best friends.

  3. Fawn, thank you for this gem. Recently, I began back-tracking on an issue and started to believe the “other” person’s stuff was my problem, totally within my control to change. Reading your post allowed me to look at the issue without blinding drama, move on and leave it for the one for whom it belongs.

  4. Jean-for me, this has been one of the hardest lessons to learn. My personality is caregiver/nurse/mom. I want to fix things for everyone. But really the most loving thing we can do, is allow other people to learn their own lessons.
    I have worked many years with a personal care aide who is black. More times than I would like to tell, she encountered patients who did not want a “colored person” to do their personal care. Our supervisor sent her out anyway…and she had the most marvelous way of noting their objections and insisting on giving excellent service anyway. I always saw her as saying to the prejudiced family, “I see that big pile of poo in your living room. But it is not my big pile of poo. I will step over it and give you the care that you need.” More than one time I had the blessing/curse of someone saying to me, ” I don’t like blacks, but Caroline is OK.”

  5. I think you’re pretty fantastic to go so above and beyond like that….;o) Especially during a blizzard… you’re the best…;o)))

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