This blog post was first published on our sister site at http://intensivecarehotline.com a blog designed to instantly improve the lives of Families who have a critically ill loved one in Intensive Care.
Have you ever wondered what is really happening in Family meetings in Intensive Care? Have you ever wondered what the elephant in the room is during those meetings?
As a starting point, Family meetings in Intensive Care normally only take place if the situation of your critically ill loved one is dire and serious. That could mean that your critically ill loved one is so sick that the odds are against his or her favour. It could also mean that your critically ill loved one is about to die. That’s at least what you and your family get told and that’s how the Intensive Care might frame the situation. How do you react? How do you know it’s true? What do you do in order to validate what you have just been told? Can you validate the information you are given at all, if you have no or only a basic understanding of Intensive Care and medicine?
Let’s take the emotion out of the situation for a moment. The emotions that Families are usually feeling when their loved one is critically ill in Intensive Care is fear, frustration, overwhelm and the feeling of vulnerability. What I also often see is that Family’s are more often than not paralysed with fear. And it’s extremely difficult to eliminate these emotions.
So, you are going into a Family meeting and you are feeling all these overwhelming emotions and that’s certainly not a good starting point to go into any meeting. And then there’s the perceived power dynamics. On the one hand is the Intensive Care team, doctors and nurses with lots of perceived power and then there’s you and your family with little or no perceived power.
How does the Intensive Care team positions your critically ill loved ones situation? How are you and your Family positioned? Are you positioned at all? Are you close to a nervous breakdown, so that positioning is the last thing on your mind?
To come to the point, depending on what is happening in the Intensive Care Unit such as the number of beds available in the Intensive Care Unit or the number of Patients awaiting admission into the ICU, the positioning of the Intensive Care team not only varies from person to person, it also varies depending on what’s happening behind the scenes. The position of the Intensive Care team might also vary, depending on the ICU consultant’s/physician’s outlook on things, whether they are an optimist or a pessimist. Some Consultants/Physicians might have a more positive outlook on things than others and therefore they may be more optimistic for your critically ill loved ones future or at least they are more willing to listen to your concerns and questions and show real empathy.
The bottom line is that you should always listen very carefully what is being said and also what is not said. It is also crucial in your situation that you are having an opinion and a position, irrespective of what the Intensive Care team is telling you. Just because you are not an Intensive Care insider, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an opinion on your critically ill loved one’s situation. I see so many families not having an opinion, because they are paralysed and overwhelmed by the whole situation that they often don’t have a say or a choice of what’s happening to their critically ill loved one. Have a say, get involved and ask as many questions as possible. That’s not only your right, it’s your duty!
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Thank you and see you next week in another update.
Sincerely, your Friend