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I'm dying, but don't want to be a burden to my son

DEAR CAROLYN: I have stage IV cancer and don't have long to live. My son and his family have invited me to live with them. I would like this as I live alone. The problem is, they live about an hour and a half away from where my medical services are. The area is remote and doesn't offer much in the way of medical help. When I become too ill to drive, I will be relying on them. I don't want to be a burden. I'm having a hard time sorting this out. I know I don't want to be alone. Thank you.


DYING: I am so sorry you're dealing with this.

I also think it's lovely that your son and family have offered you a home, and that you want to be with them, and that you are mindful of how much you ask of them.

So my advice is to find a way to make the professional-care aspect of it work well enough to be where you love and are loved.

Remember, when you're too ill to drive, your son and family will have to drive to you, if you stay where you are. It seems like a wash: They either drive you to your appointments or drive themselves to you.

Further, your condition says the nature of your medical services may be changing, where you're being treated not for a cure, but instead for comfort and quality of life. Maybe their remote area is a care desert of all kinds, but I suggest you at least look into the possibility of hospice services local to them.

Plus, if you're so far away and living alone, their worry burden will likely be significant. They might be grateful to take on extra logistical efforts in exchange for the peace of mind of having you close.

Last thing, kind of an extension of the prior one: Being there for you can be their privilege, not their burden. It can even impose a burden to deny someone's offer to help. As my mom's backup end-of-life caregiver, I know whereof I speak. The kindest thing she ever did for me was accept my help.

HI, CAROLYN: I have a relative who acknowledges that she has anxiety and that it's stopping her from doing what she wants to do, but she will not get help from a professional. She will accept advice from me, but I'm way out of my depth here. Can you suggest any books/whatever that either she or I could use?

Out of My Depth

OUT OF MY DEPTH: My suggestion is that you not let anyone use you as an alternative to getting appropriate care.

What she's doing is quite common. People who want to avoid the hard work of getting treatment try to lean instead on whoever is nearby. It's bad for you, since you get sucked into problems you correctly note you're not qualified to handle, and worse for the ailing person, who goes untreated and therefore suffers needlessly.

You say she will accept advice from you? Okay: "I am not qualified to help you. My advice remains that you talk to a professional. I'll help you find one." Repeat, repeat, repeat, verbatim even. Good luck.

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