By Dave Balch
Whether you are the patient, the caregiver, or simply a relative of the patient or caregiver, you will be asked this single question over and over again: “How are you?” or “How is ____________?” (Fill in the blank with the patient’s name.)
It comes from family, friends, acquaintances, people you work with, people at your gym, etc. Sometimes it even comes from friends of friends.
Here’s the dirty little secret: most of the time they are just being polite and don’t really want to know, at least not enough to hear the ENTIRE story.
Don’t feel bad, it’s not that they don’t care; it’s just that they have their own lives to worry about and don’t really want a long diatribe about what is happening. They want to know, but they don’t necessarily want to know all of the details.
“Okay,” you might ask, “why are you telling me this?”
Here’s why: so you can start giving them the “Reader’s Digest Version.”
Save yourself a lot of energy by avoiding a long, unnecessary explanation of the situation and save them from hearing a lot more than they really want to know. Just tell them the basics and be done with it. If they want to know more they will ask for details.
Have you ever asked someone how they are and they tell you? You have to hear about their bunions and the new pain they are feeling in their knee, a virus that they think they have and how difficult it has been to get rid of it, their stomach cramps and difficulty sleeping and… YIKES! It can make you sorry that you asked. Do you want people who care about you to be sorry that they asked?
My wife is on an oral chemotherapy, which sometimes causes a lot of fatigue, resulting in 10-12 hours of sleep every night as well as a nap in the afternoon some days. She feels badly that she can’t do as much as she used to. That’s not to say that she is sad and depressed all the time and walks around with her eyes half-open; she is really doing well and is productive, but not for as long each day as she would like. I help with her chores as much as I can, but I have a lot on my plate as well so it’s hard on both of us.
When someone asks me, “How’s Chris doing?” I could go into all of that (and more) but a) it takes a lot of energy on my part and b) I don’t want to be a bore. So I say something like, “She’s taking a drug that makes her quite fatigued, but other than that she’s doing well. Thanks for asking!” and leave it at that. If they want to know more they will ask but if they don’t, everyone is satisfied with my answer.
And they won’t be afraid to ask again the next time I see them.