How far can you intervene in the life of a friend? When you are watching someone you care about enter a terminal decline, how can you help arrest that decline without invading their privacy and trampling on their dignity?
My friend Dawn hasn't been doing so well lately. Without going into too much detail a medical condition has left her feeling increasingly weak, and thus ever more unable to take care of herself. Add a few other factors to the mix, and she's in a bit of a pickle.
As Dawn's friends, we were only able to look on. Because to intervene in such a situation requires the person at the centre of it to acknowledge their situation. And Dawn took some time to reach that point. As a friend you can advise and help, but as a non family member you can't intervene. As someone with five children you'd think Dawn would have few problems there, but aside from the one who lives furthest away who's been very good at keeping in touch they've barely visited her in months. I'm unimpressed.
The crunch came unexpectedly, wearing a tight shoe damaged her big toenail which started to go septic. Not serious you might think, but she's diabetic and diabetics have to be very careful with foot injuries. Suddenly as well as being weak she was in danger of losing a limb. My friend R and I felt intervention was unavoidable and got her to the doctor for professional wound care and antibiotics. R has some professional experience in these matters and knew exactly what to ask for; before long an army of social workers and care assessors were on the case. Now she's got the district nurse coming every day to dress her foot and someone form Social Services coming in to ensure she's eating properly. R and I are cooking frozen meals for her to give her a varied diet.
It's partly why I've been a little absent from blogland for the last week. Running around chasing all this stuff takes a surprising amount of time.
Her family do not come out of this very well at all. They've got their own lives and she's always been deceptively bright on the phone, so they didn't suspect anything was wrong. But considering that two of them only live within twenty miles of her the fact she hasn't seen any of them for months leaves me distinctly unimpressed. They're completely at ease with her being trans so it's not that, they just can't be bothered.
Could I read them the Riot Act? Very tempting, but I can't. I'm just a friend. A friend who's visiting and feeding Dawn, something they should be doing. It's another case of something in which you're not supposed to intervene. Maybe I should be a little subtle, suggest that if Social Services arrange her care there won't be much left in her will for them. Hit 'em where they care.
Life's crap, isn't it. If R and I weren't here, Dawn's immediate future would be very bleak indeed. I don't cleave to the Who lyric "Hope I die before I get old", but I do hope I have more to look forward to than that.