End of Life Lessons from Dad: Lesson #2
Lesson #2 from my Dad’s end-of-life journey is to watch out for Kahlid the Kind. Eden Alternative Principle Seven says, “Medical treatment should be the servant of genuine human caring, never its master.” Dr. Bill Thomas has written a story about this called Kahlid the Kind. The hero of the story, Kahlid, travels the desert in search of the lost and dying and saves them with pure water from his oasis. Pretty great, right? The downfall of the hero is that he only offers water, in fact in the end, he drowns those he is trying to save with his water because he does not listen to the other needs the person has.
We discovered on our journey with Dad that Kahlid the Kind is alive and well and living in medical centers in this country. Here’s what he looks like:
- Medications prescribed based on best practices, not thinking, asking or listening to the impact it is having on the person’s quality of life. A longer life is not always the right answer!
- Best practice medical procedures, recommended based on the person’s condition, to be done quickly, or else …
- When best medical procedures go against the person’s advanced directives, alternatives are not offered.
- The consistent message of “everything’s fine,” failing to provide enough information to aid in effective decision-making about other options.
- Repetitive messages and questions about medication needs, not comfort needs.
- Nurses and CNAs so busy with multiple patients and medical treatments that it is hard to take care of the simple creature comforts, like turning the pillow that is full of sweat, washing the skin, brushing the teeth, shaving the growing beard, or even some range of motion.
We also encountered healthcare professionals who understand that the person needs to come first. I have the privilege of meeting these individuals all over this country daily on the phone and in person. These enlightened healthcare professionals did things like:
- Insist that their peers look at the person, not the lab work or monitors.
- Stand in the room and observe their patient for periods of time, really getting a sense of how they are doing; more than vitals and lab work can tell you.
- Make small talk with the patient and/or family so they can connect, trust each other and meet some simple pleasures.
- Willing to open up and share their personal story to relate to the situation and ease the family’s discomfort and concerns.
Kahlid the Kind showed up in me during my career at times. Luckily, I had my awakening, and believe me, my practice shifted. It was amazing to me during this 3- week journey how, as a family, we were not honored for respecting our father’s wishes. Not once, when we turned down life-saving medical treatments, were we then asked or told what else could be done short of that process that might be helpful. The medical professionals had their version of “water” to offer and seemed to not value the other gifts and options they could contribute. Thankfully, our family has experience enough to ask about alternatives. I can’t imagine what happens to families who don’t have that knowledge.
Be aware of Kahlid the Kind. He has his place and time, but he needs to be made to really listen. When have you run into Kahlid the Kind? What advice do you have to others so they can balance the skills of Kahlid the Kind with what they need to have a full and meaningful life?