Teachable moments in hospice care
By Fran Moore, PT
Sometimes I learn about new ways to do things from my brilliant colleagues who are involved in research and academia. Sometimes I learn what not to do by questioning treatment techniques that are not backed up by scientific evidence.
Too often, though. I learn what to do (or not to do) in life by making stupid mistakes. The mistakes aren’t usually life threatening, but they’re an embarrassment, nonetheless. “I’ll never, ever do that again!” I tell myself as I give myself a mental lashing. “How could I have done that?” I say. “Why did I say that?” I ask myself. My world is momentarily rocked as I question my judgment.
But, I’ve learned over the years that I’m probably not the first member of the human race to make a mistake, and perhaps if I swallow my pride and share what I’ve learned, others, too, can learn from my mistake. When I was younger and smarter, I shied away from many opportunities in life because I was afraid of failing or of making mistakes.
As caregivers of loved ones who are in hospice, we may find ourselves in uncharted territory and terrified of making mistakes. We may not want to move a loved one who is frail and spends most of his day in a bed or in a chair, for fear of hurting him. Or, on the contrary, we may not want to ask for help when we do get him up, but then risk injuring ourselves in the process. But did we make a mistake?
Do we put ourselves on a guilt trip for not being a perfect caregiver if we occasionally make a mistake? And do we worry about what others will think of us, if they know that we’ve made a mistake?
Sometimes, it helps to share our feelings of inadequacy with others when we think we have made an error. The hospice team is filled with individuals who understand what it feels like to make a mistake. None of us is perfect. But, perhaps, through our experience, we can help patients and caregivers, who feel that they have made a mistake, work through their feelings. Maybe we can share some tricks of the trade that we’ve learned through our own mistakes. Perhaps we can all learn how to turn mistakes into teachable moments.