But as a physician, I've talked to people for years about the experiences they've had as patients and as Caregivers.
Here are some "pet peeves" I've heard over the years, and/or experienced myself:
- Describing your situation -- whatever the experience -- to someone, only to hear a litany of their own horror stories in return.
- Well-wishers who imply that something is wrong with the care the patient is receiving. (Example: "So the transplant didn't work. Did the doctors do something wrong?" My answer: "No, it was a complicated situation.")
- Sympathizers who encourage lawsuits! ("So, you're suing them, right?" My answer: "No, we're not, and go away!")
- People who say: "I understand your situation completely. I know exactly how you feel."
Be aware! Anyone who says "I understand completely" probably doesn't. If they did, they wouldn't say it!
I truly believe that some helpful things to say include:
- "I have no idea what that must be like."
- "I've never experienced that. I have gone through some difficult experiences, but this sounds rugged."
- -- or better yet -- "What is this experience like for you?"
The people who "get it" listen. They allow you to vent. They give you Starbucks cards. They know they don't have to fix it -- because if you could have fixed it yourself, you would have done it already.
Isn't compassion interesting? I believe that people have good intentions for the most part. But as a Caregiver, you need all the support you can get. So, seek out the people who "fill up your bucket," and make less time for those who make you feel worse.
Take care. Linda Gromko, MD