Marriage & Family Therapist Questions Marriage Counseling

Is it normal for a parent's illness to cause marriage problems?

My husband and I have been disagreeing nonstop on how to treat my mother's pancreatic cancer. I think she needs hospice care eventually and he disagrees with hospice. What should we do?

2 Answers

As you know, pancreatic cancer is one of the most painful conditions and the course is often rapid. Hospice offers many benefits by way of pain and other symptom management, usually far better than nonspecialists. Hospice care does not mean giving up on the person. It actually means a skilled person is assessing all of their needs, emotional, physical, and spiritual. Ashok J Bharucha, MD, MA Phone: 844-647-1455 FAX: 877-511-8663 In the event of an emergency, email is not an appropriate form of communication. If you are in a crisis, please call 911 or proceed to your nearest emergency room. All pertinent practice policies are also available
Serious illness stirs up all kinds of emotions. Your husband may have some unresolved guilt or other emotion that is making it difficult to communicate with you. Maybe he has some past experiences that color his response. Did he love someone who had a bad hospice experience ? Does he feel like you are giving up on her ? or maybe he has had an experience that reflects all his anxiety about her care and diagnosis. Ask him- what are his concerns and why is he angry (Is he ?) First, you both should see what your mothers wishes are for her care, if she can participate in her decision making. If she is too ill now, have you discussed circumstances prior that could direct you to choose the best options for her care that reflect her preferences ? If so, that takes precedence over others decisions- although there may need to be some realistic discussions about expectations. If her wish is to live to see her grandchild married and they are only 15, then perhaps a discussion about what is important to her now is indicated. I want to be home with my family, I dont want to spend my last days in the hospital, I want to enjoy the foods I love etc I hope you have a good relationship w her doctor. Please ask the doctor to be frank and transparent about her condition. IF she receives treatment, is she expected to live for weeks? Months ? years ? Is she well enough to get aggressive treatment- and is this an option? Surgery ? chemo ? radiation? With a realistic picture of her cancer trajectory you maybe able to better put together a treatment plan. If there is a lot of tumor spread, and or she is very frail, then the best option maybe hospice w focused comfort care. Sometimes we bridge the transition to hospice with palliative care- a focused approach towards managing symptoms in people with life threatening or life limiting illness. An understanding that hospice is not giving up it is respecting the person to allow them a peaceful and symptom free transition to end of life care. Theresa M. Redling, DO, FACP Chief, Geriatric Health and Disease Management Medical Director Maida Geriatric Institute at Cooper Barnabas Medical Center Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Office 973-322-7636 Fax 973-322-7673