Some advice needed...sick co-worker

edwinnaJune 1, 2005


I started lurking in this forum last year when it looked like my father-in-law was going to have to leave his home to be cared for. Thankfully, he died suddenly of a heart attack before it became necessary. Not meant in a cold hearted way, just that he would have hated losing his independence. Anyways, that's how I found you great people. You amaze me with what you do every day.

So, now the time has come where your expertise would be so helpful if you don't mind sharing/advising.

A wonderful woman I work with was diagnosed with liver disease almost a year ago. She's fought hard but is now in the final stages of liver failure. She's only 60 years old.

She's very depressed (having just found out today that the doctors give her six months tops) and she's so sad to realize that she won't be returning to work.

I want to spend time with her and try to make things a little better, but I'm not very good at these things. To be honest, I'm scared too. I'm not sure if it's possible to cheer her up, but I'd like to try.

Some of us (other co-workers) visit and handle it really well. Others visit, but don't know what to say. And, some don't visit cuz although they love her, are afraid to say the wrong thing.

We did pool our money today to buy her flowers and a teddy bear. And, some of us made some meals for her hubby to eat.

Any suggestions for making this time more bearable for her would be much appreciated.

Thank you so much,


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I went to visit with a friend who was dying of brain cancer.
I took along my rubberstamping things. After we visited for a little while I ask her if she would like to try my new hobby.
We played like two little girls. Her hands were so shaky and her project were very poor indeed, but we had fun and something to do other than dwell on the fact that I was not going to see her again. She passed in the next few weeks.
I think the best thing is to go and spend time. Help her make a few meals for her freezer (she might like somethings she wants other than all the food other people drop by with.
Ask if you can do her nails or her toe nails. Anything that you can feel comfortable with.
Just Care for Her and tell her how much her friendship means to you. Go before it is to late.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 8:02AM
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Hello, Edwinna,
Connie has some good suggestions. I would think about the things you two shared t work, or special interests you both share and follow thru with those. Time spent is the best thing...almost regardless of what you do or talk about. When you visit, look for ways you can be of help to her...or to her hubby. Perhaps there are chores to be done, or errands.
Be sure she is hooked up with all the services she can use. For example, if she is talking about having only months to live, suggest hospice to her (while she can still benefit in a big way). Some docs wait till the last week or two and the person is deprived of their wonderful help for all those months.
Expect, too, that she will start to close out her relationships at some point, as she is grieving her losses, so at some point, she may not need or want visits from everyone. I don't know how close you all were, but don't be offended if this is natural. But there is still her family who can take comfort in all you do.
You might find this book helpful, ON DEATH& DYING, by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
It is a sad situation, and natural to feel awkward. But do will feel better about it after the first time. Good luck. Let us know how it goes. Derry

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 9:07AM
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Do you telephone? If not, call her, say that you are going to the store and is there anything that she would like. Suggest things like sodas, fruit, etc. Then, just throw in some idle chitchat from the office. She probably misses hearing the gossip about who did what, who got a raise.....stuff like that. then, if she seems tired, or doesn't feel like talking, you can stay something about being in a hurry and hang up. Just get in the habit of phoning and a visit will be a lot easier.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 9:22AM
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Hi and welcome! aren't these folks great, don't know what i'd do without them! I will say there is nothing like a visit - only don't make it a long one. it seems to us (al and i) that when you have an illness the people that you thought were friends seem to just drop off the face of the earth, we figure they must think they can catch the illness a person has! i think just chitchat - about the office, like PeaBee said is a wonderful ice breaker, it seems to make for more subjects. it will be hard, but once you do it and have been there for about 10 minutes or so time will probably fly! i think we're going to have a warm one today, it's already 63 and sunny! debbie

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 10:37AM
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Hi edwinna & welcome to the forum! It sounds like you work with a great bunch of people. The girls have given you excellent suggestions. Do go... You will never regret it. Her hubby will appreciate it, too. (As Derry suggested, be sure to mention the services of hospice to her.) God bless you as you go. ~breezy

Here is a link that might be useful: some helpful hospice info

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 11:24AM
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HI debbie!.....Congrats on achieving Spring! guys deserve it, if anyone does! Derry

    Bookmark   June 1, 2005 at 11:26AM
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Hi to you too Derry and everyone else! Yes, spring has finally sprung it went up to about 78 today, i've been in the flower beds trying to fix up the past 2 years of no one tending to anything! it's so nice to not have to wear a coat and actually put on shorts! although i haven't seen any robins yet, we do have blossoms on our plumb trees, so ptetty! We have even had Al out the past 2 days, he tires so easily and when he wakes yp from a nap he has problems sitting up, actually he can't get up at all and needs help, i fear the worst, maybe mini strokes, but tomorrow i'll make him a doctors appointment. Carley and i went to the movies tonite, i think the last time i was at one was to see so it was along time ago! and it cost about 3.00 a ticket, tonite cost us 8.50 a ticket, we went to see sisterhood of the travelling pants, only because dd read the book, i found it a depressing movie, but noticed that mothers and daughters where mostly there to see it, so that was nice. dd also got her correspondance course stuff this afternoon, she is taking families in a diverse society, it had to be approved by the school principal for her to be able to take it, but because of her marks and our family situation she was able to take it,plus 190.00 - lol, but it's worth it and we'll claim it on our income tax. she can work on it at her own pace and has a year to complete it, but knowing her she'll be done it pretty fast, so we can donate our time with habitat for humanity and helping children to read (what a summer she has planned for us!) only 14 days left of school, but who's counting! well thanks for sending us this lovely weather we really needed it! debbie

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 12:18AM
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I can't thank all of you enough. Your advice was so helpful!

After work, I went to visit this dear woman. She's one who has looked after and nurtured others her entire life so in her mind it's not natural to her to be the one needing help.

At first, we cried together. She just grabbed me and hung on as tight as she could. I said to her..."It just sucks, doesn't it?" And, we cried some more. By the end of the visit we were laughing about how she had to go to extremes to get her hubby to wait on her hand and foot after years of her taking care of him.

I love the stamping idea. As luck would have it, someone just gave me an entire stamping set and I didn't know what I was going to do with it. Her grandson is graduating from high school in a week. Maybe we can make a special card for her to give to him.

Also, I asked her what I could bring her the next time I visit. She asked for lime flavored soda water and some fruit. So, after the visit, I stopped at the store and purchased three bottles of the soda water, watermelon, bananas and strawberries. Will take them to her tomorrow.

Then the morphine took over and I figured it was time to go.

I'll check out the book suggestion too.

Oh, almost forgot. Thanks to your suggestions, one of the other co-workers called the local home health care agency and hospice. We're making arrangements with them now.

Sadly, her family isn't being of much help to her when she needs it the most. So, while discussing it at work, we decided that we'll be her family for as long as she needs us.

All of you are the best...thanks so much for your help.

Debbie, that's great that the weather was nice. You and Al are often in my thoughts.


    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 1:45AM
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How wonderful, edwinna... You are A GREAT BUNCH! :)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 6:07AM
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Edwinna...hello and welcome to our little corner of the world!
When a friend of ours was dying from cancer, we formed an "Angel Network" for her. We took turns visiting, bringing things she needed, and found excuses for dumb celebrations we found on an email card site. Each day seemed to have something connected to it, and for example, if it was "Hug A Tree Day", we'd bring a book for her to read, or a magazine, etc. When we cooked dinners, we made another to freeze, and brought them over: so much easier and tastier than anything from the frozen food meals available!

When she passed away, at her funeral, her DH presented us all with tiny angel pins which we wore can do the same for "the girls" who are your friend's Angels.

You sound like a lovely, caring group of gals, and she's so fortunate to have known and worked with you.

Drop in for suggestions, help whenever you want to...or just to visit US! ;-D


    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 7:13AM
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How wonderful you all are to be so caring and thoughtful. It's good that you are able to laugh and cry together and talk about "IT."

When my mother was dying, I simply could not bring myself to talk about the obvious elephant in the room. Only once did we ever acknowledge "what is going to happen" and that was when she was still at home and somewhat alert. I felt as though we "should" be able to talk about this. I discussed it with the hospice nurse and she said that if we weren't able to discuss these types of things before, we might not be able to do it now, so try not to worry about it. And it's true -- my family NEVER talked about death and dying. So Mom and I held hands and tried our best to convey the unspoken. We talked about everything BUT. Or rather, as her disease progressed and she couldn't talk much, I did the talking.

When the end neared, and the nursing home called me, I rushed up there to find her under an oxygen mask, holding the hand of her aide, but recognizing me. She squeezed my hand tightly, then slipped into a coma. I told her that I would be fine, and she could go whenever she was ready. I kept talking to her for the two days, because the hospice nurse assured me she could still hear me and smell me (those are the two last senses to go).

I'm sure your friend treasured your visit, and the ability to talk about "IT." I know my mom talked about death with the hospice nurse and the nurse told me that mom said it "felt good to talk." Sometimes you just can't talk about it with the ones closest to you.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 10:13AM
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Edwinna what TRUE friends you all are to be her "family", i know what it's like to have no help! just being there and even if you don't talk just means the world to someone, with Al(and i have said this a million times before, everyone likes my dh, he's just one of those nice guys) and his mother i think it's just disgusting and if i could find a stronger word than that, i'd use it, to not have her there and living so close, you think that you'd want to be there as much as possible. i was also thinking of books on tape, if she's not into reading right now. getting out into the flower garden again, cause it's 78 out already, make sure to put sun-screen on if you're going out there and listen to the birds sing! debbie

    Bookmark   June 2, 2005 at 12:16PM
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Edwinna..that sounds like an exceptionally good start to a meaningful experience for all of you. There are lessons to be learned here, as well as all the comfort you can provide for her. Your group sounds like a great group, your friend is so lucky. If her family isn't "there" yet,maybe you all can be the stand-ins. Liver cancer can be a slow boat to Heaven, so plan for the long don't want to "fizzle" out and leave her alone. Kudos! for a great effort. Derry

    Bookmark   June 3, 2005 at 9:54AM
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Hi all,

I read your posts last night, but I wasn't up to posting a reply. The earliest I've arrived home from work this week has been 7:00 and then there's dinner and cleanup and chores and stuff. Like all of you don't already know how the days go. :-)

All of you continue to amaze me with what you do day in and day out.

Anyways, yesterday I took the fruit and lime soda water to this dear woman, but she wasn't interested. She was in pretty bad shape. We talked for a few minutes and then she fell asleep. I tucked her in and left.

I didn't visit today, cuz I had a bunch of errands to run after work, but one of the co-workers went to see her. She was much better. She ate some fruit and she felt well enough that the co-worker helped her outside and they sat in her yard so she could enjoy the sun and fresh air. She liked that.

We're realizing that the time spent with her has to be spent at her pace not ours. It's ok if we were hoping to spend time stamping (just an example) and she's not up to it. This is her journey and we'll take each day as it comes.

The Home Health people arrived today and did an assessment. They'll send a health care person twice a week to help out. The local hospice organization called back; they're re-organzing but will get someone out to help the family as soon as they can. We're in a very small rural community so services aren't as available or as efficient as in larger communities.

Another bit of good news. As I was leaving last night, her daughter and grand daughter showed up. The daughter came to cook dinner and tidy up the house and the grand daughter spent time with her grandmother. It's not easy for the grand daughter; she's only 14. The grandson who will be graduating next week is a wonderful young man and has always been very close to this dear lady, but so far is staying away cuz he can't stand to see her in her present condition.

That's ok too...people deal with things in their own way. We're hoping he'll find the strength to visit soon so that he doesn't regret staying away and end up sorry that he didn't get to say 'goodbye'.

Derry, I hear what you mean about 'fizzling'. We don't want a spurt of overly enthusiastic helpers to not see this through, so we're organizing so that there aren't a bunch of people one day and none for the long haul. We're trying to coordinate our time so that it evens out and no one feels overwhelmed.

So far, so good. One day at a time.

Thank you again for all your wonderful advice and kindness. It means a lot.



    Bookmark   June 4, 2005 at 2:31AM
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