Ask Amy

Dear Amy: About two months ago my hus­band’s grand­fa­ther was di­ag­nosed with can­cer. De­spite the doc­tor urg­ing him to re­con­sider, he de­cided to es­chew tra­di­tional Western medicine in fa­vor of holis­tic treat­ments.

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Amy Dick­in­son

He’s since got­ten dras­ti­cally worse, has lost 35 pounds (he was al­ready very skinny) and spends most of his time in bed.

The treat­ments aren’t work­ing and de­spite sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers telling him how wor­ried they are and beg­ging him to seek treat­ment, he re­fuses. It’s his life and so his choice to make, but it’s tear­ing the fam­ily apart.

Half of these fam­ily mem­bers are sus­pi­cious of chemo­ther­apy. They hold out hope that he’ll im­prove, while the other half feel that he’s need­lessly let­ting him­self die, and hold their other fam­ily mem­bers some­what ac­count­able for en­cour­ag­ing his de­ci­sion to forego med­i­cal treat­ment. Every­body’s al­ready said their piece — is there any­thing else that can be done?

Ad­di­tion­ally, I never know what to say or how to com­fort my hus­band when we talk about his grandpa. I lis­ten and pro­vide what lit­tle hope­ful com­ments I can, but it al­ways feels in­ad­e­quate. Do you have any sug­ges­tions? — Up­set

Dear Up­set: The grand­fa­ther’s clos­est fam­ily mem­bers should ap­proach him about hav­ing a hos­pice worker visit the house to talk with him (check with his physi­cian for a re­fer­ral). The hos­pice move­ment has a spe­cial fo­cus on pro­vid­ing pal­lia­tive care to ill peo­ple. The pa­tient con­tin­ues to be in charge, and the hos­pice worker pro­vides com­fort care, op­por­tu­ni­ties to talk, and can of­ten be an im­por­tant bridge be­tween the ill per­son and up­set fam­ily mem­bers.

My own ex­pe­ri­ence with hos­pice is that when the hos­pice worker en­ters the scene, the emo­tional “tem­per­a­ture” shifts from hot to warm, as peo­ple fi­nally let down their guard and re­lease their need to de­fend their own po­si­tion. Fam­ily mem­bers are en­cour­aged to visit, rem­i­nisce, laugh and cry — rather than con­tinue to ob­sess about choices the pa­tient is mak­ing.

This is a time for you to pro­vide a quiet, sup­port­ive pres­ence to your hus­band, rather than leap­ing in to try to fix things for him. Lis­ten and sym­pa­thize, treat him ten­derly, don’t of­fer up too much ex­tra­ne­ous com­men­tary or gos­sip about his fam­ily mem­bers, and un­der­stand that this is a tough life pas­sage and you can’t nec­es­sar­ily make things bet­ter for him. Walk­ing along­side him as he ex­pe­ri­ences this may be the most you can do.

Dear Amy: I’m a woman in my late 20s. I don’t have any friends.

I grad­u­ated col­lege a few years ago, with lots of stu­dent loans. My full­time job pays OK, but I still have to sup­ple­ment my in­come with part­time em­ploy­ment.

Work­ing seven days a week puts a big damper on any so­cial prospects.

I don’t have time or en­ergy to vol­un­teer, at­tend church or join “meet up” groups.

I’ve made some ac­quain­tances at work and at the gym, but be­cause of my so­cial anx­i­ety it never goes be­yond small talk.

I’m too old for the bar/par­ty­ing scene. I don’t have a part­ner or child, so I don’t fit in with the “fam­ily” types. I’m at a loss. Do you have any ad­vice? — In­tro­verted but Lonely

Dear Lonely: There is noth­ing “wrong” with be­ing an in­tro­vert, but you re­port be­ing lonely and so­cially iso­lated. Be­cause of your tough sched­ule, it might help for you to work on ways to turn some of the glanc­ing con­nec­tions and ac­quain­tances you al­ready have into some­thing more.

I en­joy the work of Chris Ma­cLeod, a Cana­dian so­cial worker who has writ­ten ex­ten­sively about how he dealt with his own so­cial anx­i­ety and at­ten­dant iso­la­tion when he was your age. His web­site, suc­ceed­so­cially.com is packed with ar­ti­cles, tips and check­lists of steps to try, which he help­fully ranks from “easy” (re­search­ing lo­cal places to hang out) to “dif­fi­cult” (ask­ing an ac­quain­tance to make plans with you). The idea is to take this in stages, and learn as you go.

You are al­ready go­ing to a gym (good for you) — and now ex­plor­ing other ways to im­prove your so­cial habits or be­hav­ior might pro­vide some more pos­i­tive change in your life.

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