When a loved one is critically ill and requires intensive care treatment, it is a most trying time for family, relatives and friends. It is of utmost importance to remember that the patient requires not only medical care, but also requires the moral support of loved ones. While the medical team fights for the patient’s physical recovery, loved ones must be mindful that the patient depends on them to fight to help keep up his or her morale.
The hospital staff is not sovereign. Doctors make prognosis for patient recovery based upon the information that is available to them from various tests that they have conducted, past medical records and information that is gathered from the family members that have had access to the patient’s medical history. While the staff is required to prognosticate using such hard data that is presented to them, the patient’s will to live plays a part in the recovery.
We live at a time wherein science has gone from meaning “the discovery of God’s world” as it was once presented to mean in older school text books to meaning “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.”
It is not the medical staff’s responsibility to employ anything beyond the physically available means of promoting your loved one’s recovery. While a chaplain may be available, it is up to the next of kin to make decisions on spiritual support for the patient. It behooves all loved ones to provide for their own spiritual upkeep as well. The intensive care unit is not the place to settle any unfinished business with the patient or other loved ones. The patient depends upon a concerted joint effort by the loved ones to act in his/her behalf. The patient is fighting to survive. The patient is not lying in state. Emotional displays are only self-serving and only help to relieve the displayer of emotional discomfort. The patient needs only to know how much he or she is loved, that they are being giving the best of care available, that loved ones are giving their utmost support and that prayers are being offered in their behalf. Tearful “good-byes” are of no benefit to the patient. The implicit meaning of a tearful good-bye is that a loved one has given up hope for the patient and has checked out as a supporter and has begun the mourning process. It is paramount that such demoralizing behavior be kept out of the patient’s presence. It shows less moral support to the patient than the moral support that is being given by the medical team. Again, moral support is not the primary responsibility of the medical team, but is the responsibility of loved ones and clergy.
Clergical support may be offered by the hospital; however, the next of kin has the responsibility of deciding what clergical support to employ: it is highly acceptable to provide one’s own clergy. In many instances, it is preferable to employ your clergy because chaplains may be perceived by the patient as end of life support.
Remember, doctors practice medicine and are not sovereign. They train rigorously to care for your loved one, but their prognosis is a prognosis. Prognoses are not written in stone. Do not check out on your loved one in the face of dire predictions. You are your loved one’s cheerleader. No cheerleader should be tearful during a game. Where there is life, there is hope.