QUESTION: My 57-year-old mother is a whiner. We know for sure that she has some chronic medical issues such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. She also had a bout with breast cancer, but with chemotherapy, she has been cancer-free for five years. She complains every day about aches, pains and feelings of fatigue and nausea. These aren’t new symptoms. My sister and I have heard about the same ailments for the past 20 years. As a result, we have been providing care since we were teenagers and we’re tired. Do you think she’s faking? — Robert
DEAR ROBERT: She may, or may not, be faking — there’s no way you or I can make that call. Is she under a physician’s care? If so, make an appointment as soon as possible for you and your sister to talk about your mother’s condition. If she doesn’t have a physician, do some research and find a medical professional you can confide in. If you don’t know where to turn, ask family and friends for a referral. A number of conditions are possible considering your mother’s poor quality of health. Fibromyalgia, for instance, could be a possibility, but it is very difficult to pinpoint. Often sufferers interpret mild sensations as pain. Figuring out whether a person’s symptoms are “real” is a challenge for even the most revered medical professionals. Your mother’s condition may be psychological and a cry for help. Your weariness is understandable, but try to muster some compassion and patience until you can get the answers you need to help get your mother on a path to wellness.
Patricia Smith is a certified Compassion Fatigue Specialist with 20 years of training experience. As founder of the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project© (www.compassionfatigue.org), the outreach division of Healthy Caregiving, LLC, she writes, speaks and facilities workshops nationwide in service of those who care for others. She has authored several books including To Weep for a Stranger: Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving, which is available at www.healthycaregiving.comor Amazon.com.