Opinion: Dear Susi Q

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Guest Opinion: Dear Susi Q

My mother has just been placed in hospice. She barely recognizes me. Sadly, the timing coincides with a long-planned trip with my children. I saved for it for a long time, and I can’t get a refund. Would it be wrong of me to go? 

Thanks for your advice,

Stressed 

Rickie Redman, Director of Aging in Place Services at Laguna Beach Seniors, answers: 

Rickie Redman, director of Aging in Place Services at Laguna Beach Seniors. Photo/Susi Q

I understand how difficult this decision can be. I invite you to reframe your question so that you are not defining your actions as “wrong.” Let’s instead ask:  

“How can I take care of my mother and myself while considering my long-planned vacation?” 

It’s essential to create a care plan regardless of your vacation. Hospice offers respite care for situations like this when more care is temporarily needed. Hospice is incredibly valuable, as you’ll have a dedicated care team. Be sure the team understands your mother’s care and pain management preferences. They should know if she is willing to tolerate some pain to be more coherent or if she would prefer higher medication levels. Ensure her religious or spiritual needs are being tended to. Hospice can provide a chaplain and volunteer support if requested. While hospice is available 24/7, they don’t provide around-the-clock care. Make sure you understand what services they offer so you can consider the additional care she will need. 

While your mother might not recognize you, I imagine your presence brings her comfort, even if she can’t outwardly express it. You can arrange to have loved ones or friends visit by creating a schedule while you are gone. Share with them what else comforts her: music, a book or poetry, a soothing scent, or physical touch. An end-of-life practitioner or death doula can provide additional support as well. This will be beneficial for your mother and give you further peace of mind if you go on vacation. 

The truth is, we never know when someone will die. People can stay on hospice for days or even years. However, there are indications when death is nearing. You can communicate with the hospice team to inform you of the signs of active dying. Knowing this information, you can make plans should you want to return home early from your trip. 

If you decide to go on vacation, be sure to spend time with your mother before you go. Tell her what is in your heart and honor that this could be the last time you see her. 

This is an incredibly personal decision. Ponder how you might feel if you are not near when your mother dies so that you can be at peace with the decision you make. 

Life and death is a beautiful mystery. Your situation brings to light the nuances that humans experience and, ultimately, what makes dying and living so sacred. It’s a reminder that our life and time on this earth are limited. Enjoy every moment and trust that you are just a human doing your best. 

For additional free and confidential support, I can be reached at The Susi Q at (949) 715-8107 or [email protected]

Also, I’ll be leading a series of four free sessions about planning for end-of-life, beginning August 10. Sign up at www.thesusiq.org.  

“Dear Susi Q,” brought to you by nonprofit Laguna Beach Seniors, is intended to provide helpful advice for readers on matters including relationships, retirement, home safety, transportation, mental/physical health, and local entertainment and educational resources. It’s “Dear Abby” for the Laguna Beach crowd. 

Qualified staff, support group leaders, and volunteers stand ready to answer your questions, so please send them to [email protected]. We can’t wait to help. 

No identifying names will ever be used. Some questions, such as today’s, may be a composite of several submitted.  

For more information about Susi Q and Laguna Beach Seniors, visit www.thesusiq.org. 

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