My Dad has MS and has about 4 months left to live. We are a very close family and his situation has finally set in with family and friends. My Dad and our family are bombarded with questions about his health on a daily bases. My Dad is a very private person and we are all getting tired of the same questions. We know that everyone means well but it is too much for us to handle. What should we do?
This is a very emotional time for everyone and having control of anything at this point is a luxury. Here is what I suggest.
You need to become more organized and structured about what you tell people. It is a time for “A Need To Know Bases” Let me explain.
People need to respect your family’s need for privacy and for establishing an honest way to communicate about what is going on. Try these simple techniques.
-Send everyone who has asked about your Dad (or you expect to ask about him) an email or a letter. Include in your message that your Father is being protective of himself and his family. Tell people that your Father has asked that people respect his privacy. Let people know that there will be a more controlled format to inform people of news.
-Select a “point person” – almost like a PR Manager to deal with questions. Let people know that “Susie” will be handling all email and telephone inquiries.
-Describe your Father’s desire for privacy as being similar to an onion. There are layers of information that are shared with different people. Some people will know first, others will learn news as the family decides to release it to family and friends.
Your family will feel better by finding a way to control the message. It will decrease the amount of time on repetitive questions and keep the message clear. Often medical situations can be misunderstood or twisted (almost like gossip).
Your message should be friendly and thankful for everyone’s concerns while also being very clear about:
-What you will share
-When you will share news
-Who will share the news
-Who will field the inquiries
Life is all about setting expectations. Let your extended family and friends know what they can expect. It may not suite everyone’s needs, but it will help give your family the control that you deserve.
Message from Mary Bart: I was my parents’ principal caregiver for ten years. I have first-hand experience in helping aging parents, dealing with family dynamics, protecting parents from elder abuse and working with public and private organizations. Do you have a question for me? Please email your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
An important note: I love answering your questions, but I also encourage you to seek professional legal, financial, or medical assistance. Mary.
Updated: July 15, 2013