Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
What’s the obligation of friends to help one another when there’s a
major medical event like cancer or surgery? I’m part of a social circle
that has helped its members as we have experienced health
vicissitudes. The person who needs help appoints a coach/coordinator
who either communicates through email or a website where friends
can sign up to bring meals, be a companion, help with household
chores, etc. Here’s the problem: the friend who needs help is refusing
to go into rehab for the two weeks when she will need almost 24/7
care (after a knee replacement). The irony is that Medicare would
probably pay but she refuses to leave her cat alone. She’s single and
has no relatives to come stay with her. Can we pressure into doing
what is appropriate and necessary by refusing to help until after the
first two weeks? Or are we being churlish?
Reasonable or Not?
There are two separate issues going on. One is medical necessity, and
the doctors will probably make the “how helpful, when?” question
moot because the medical system will almost certainly insist that she
be in 24/7 care for some period of time, likely two weeks, after
surgery. She, of course, has the option to rent that care from in-home
providers, but most people who undergo serious surgery lose a little of
their stubbornness after they are operated on, are in pain, and require
help performing the simplest of tasks, for much longer than they can
anticipate or any of us would choose.
Become or communicate closely with the coach as well as the social
circle. Get an accurate sense of who’s willing to step us how often and
for how long. Then map that against the 24/7 needed care. Make it
clear that the friend circle cannot substitute for the rehab center where
she will need to go, at least for a little while. Tell her everyone wishes
her well and is happy to help out once she’s back in the house, but if
she wants 24/7 care up front, it is the Medicare/rehab route or paying
out of pocket, assuming she can convince the medical folks it is viable.
She won’t be happy. But she still needs you.