Saturday, September 03, 2016
Quality of Life II
I feel that relationships and passion are at the center of quality of life. When I meet with a family of a dying patient, I often ask them to tell me about the patient. They almost always tell me about the patient's personality, his relationships with others, or his passions in life. In our conversations, these characteristics seem intertwined in creating meaning and value for that person (or least, the family's interpretation of it). And indeed, when it becomes clearer that the patient is losing his personality, unable to maintain his relationships, and will never recover to pursue his passions, the conversation about the end of life follows.
For me, at least, many of the decisions I make stem from my relationships with those around me and the values, interests, and commitments I have. I am proudest of these things, most creative with them, and happiest when I delve into them. Whether it is holding a board game night or learning a new dance or reading "Harry Potter 8" or crafting a new poem, I am energized, sometimes exuberant. When I reflect on curtailed relationships, lost hobbies, disinterest, I find little substance and joy. My mood and indeed my quality of life follows the robustness of my relationships, the devotion I give to my passions.
Although medicine is not aimed at such lofty goals, I do think we can make small differences in helping patients achieve these goals. We center our patients in their universe of relationships; we ask about their spouse, kids, friends, family. We help them bridge estranged relationships. We encourage their support network to buoy them up. We ask them what they love doing. As they recover from illness or cope with disease, we orient them in their world of passions, helping them engage as best they can in the things that give their life meaning, quality.