Is hope a good thing for dying patients?
I had been working myself to the bone. There was never enough staff on board. I had injured myself trying to tug and pull and move very sick patients around. Did my best to get their bodies cleaned up and dress them but I was exhausted. The matrons saw me as a nuisance and a rebel. I was calling in sick more often, complaining about the state of things. I have had an amazing track record before. Never skipped a single day. They forced me into a ward that I couldn’t perform my best in and left me unsupported. I tried hard to come to terms with it. There was one particular night I actually forced myself to be optimistic so I went into the wards without a mask on. It was symbolic of my determination to commit to these patients – I would not recommend taking off your protective gear though…it’s a stupid thing to do. I wanted to pick them up, lift their moods, treat them with respect. With so much to do I barely had the time to do such a thing usually but I wanted to try anyway.
I went in there, a mask-less hero, opened the windows, used my most cheerful voice, greeted the patients with a sunny “goood morning ladies!”
A pouting patient didn’t want to move or wake up…I touched her shoulder and said “Hey, come on, it’s morning. The tea will be coming around soon. Lets get you cleaned up and you should brush your hair. You are going to be okay! You can do this! You are strong!”
I realized my mistake only when she responded with “Are you sure I’m going to be okay?”
Was I putting false hope into her head?
“Yes. You are going to be okay.” the words slipped out before I could even stop them.
She looked at me thoughtfully. My mind went haywire. Omg, did I just tell a patient she wasn’t going to die? Did I overstep the line? What do I do? I imagined the words in my head…”no sorry, I didn’t mean that you’re going to live. You’re dying.” – there’s no way to say that without sounding like a cold-blooded crazy person. They don’t live in my bubble. They’re about to lose their lives. My need to make everything pretty may not be welcomed. How do you deal with this? How much optimism is too much? Is false hope better than no hope? What if all you need is a change in mindset and you could live a better life even if you are dying?
Great, back to cold, grey reality while I mull that one over. I reeled in my optimism and went on with my routine. This time, keeping my big mouth shut.