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How do we know when death is near?

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Old 06-05-2010, 05:37 PM   #1
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How do we know when death is near?

Hello, I'm new - this is my first post. I'm a 49 year old daughter of a 71 year old dear mother with Alzheimers, and I have two sisters and a brother, and we are all actively involved in caring for my mother even though she is in a Memory Care assisted-living facility. My healthy 72 year old Daddy suddenly got sick last November, and died quickly of lung cancer in Feb of this year. We all took turns staying at nights with my Mother in her home after he died, and mostly days also until we hired a nice lady 3 days a week, but my Mama didn't much want her being there.(or us either - she kept saying she needed "peace" but we couldn't leave her alone) We decided it was best to place her in a very nice place with highly skilled workers, and we appreciate all the loving care they provide her. We visit often, but the problem mom is in the moderate to severe stages and because of her arthritic knees (and she is in TERRIBLE pain and has to constantly take pain meds)...we are not sure how much longer she will be able to stay in that particular place. My youngest sister would like to take her to her house, but there will have to be paid hire caregivers to help. My mom can barely get out of bed at this point because of her painful knees and we don't hear that surgery is a good option (knee replacement and therapy ). She does have injections every once in awhile to help with the pain, but she is so disheartened, sad, depressed, and really just wants to go on to heaven at this point. I don't blame her. She is confused and has been through so much the past few months. We are doing our best, but it is extremely difficult and heart-breaking seeing her in this condition. We really just don't know what to do. We may hire someone to come and sit with her to help out at the facility where she is located for a few months so she can continue to stay there. She is just heavy to lift, and screams in pain when you have to move her. She can't get to the bathroom in her room anymore so we bought her a portable potty chair and she is now wearing those Depends also . She had to go to the hospital last Saturday night because of too much Coumadin in her system - it is so hard to balance even though it is checked regularly (she has atrial fibrillation). She was released this past Wednesday after receiving potassium shot and plasma transfusion. Help - has anyone else dealt with arthritis issues such as this and have any good solutions? Also, she has gotten to where she doesn't want to eat very much at all, and not drink much either. We don't know if Hospice needs to be called in or is she going to improve soon? We hate seeing her like this, she has always been the best mom in the world and loved by so many people. At this point, I would rather her be freed from her earthly body and mind so she can rejoice and be with my Daddy again and all of her loved ones!! I will still miss her, but I miss her already! Thanks so much!

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Old 06-05-2010, 07:23 PM   #2
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Re: How do we know when death is near?


Let me start by saying "KEEP LOVING YOUR MOTHER"!!!!! I have been where you are at and our battle is still going on.

Mom has suffered with her knees for years. She has had 2 surgeries and still had pain. She had injections about every 3 months. That was the only thing that would help her get around but 3 months is about as long as the shot would last. But she was a strong woman and she refused to let anything get the better of her. So many times she would carry on her daily routine in terrible pain.

Two years ago mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers. It came on her so fast I didn't even realize what was happening. I will tell you just a little about mom but not all because hopefully y'all will never get to this point.

What ever sickness mom got robbed her of all mobility in a matter of a week or two. The Dr. put her in a Rehab. center to try to get her mobile again. I didn't work so she was put in the hospital for therpy. She could only stay in the hospital for 2 weeks and she told me to look for a good Nursing Home because she knew I could not take care of her by myself. When she was released from the hospital she asked me if we could just go home for a little while just to see if maybe her strength would come back. Against Dr. advise I brought mom home. I stayed with her night and day for 2 months, never leaving her side. My husband had to buy all groceries and everything else that needed to be done outside the home. Mom fail often and I was not able to pick her up by myself so in the middle of the night I would have to call my husband to come help me pick mom up....her skin was so thin, it would tear just if I would pull on her the wrong way. Finally, we realize the N/H was inevitable so we packed up and I cried all the way there and I am still crying today. I felt so guilty because I could take care of mom myself, but it was the right and only way she couldn't get proper care.

It will be 2 yrs. Nov. that mom has been there. About 3 months after being there mom was walking all over the place with and without her walker. The nurses would be wondering where mom was because her walker was still in the dining room but no mom. They would either find her back in her room are at the end of the foyer looking out the french doors working her puzzle books. Mom was happy but short lived. I don't know what happen but she became immobile again.

We are going through some really hard times now. Mom hasn't eaten in over 4 months...YES...4 months. just water and a few sips of high protein drink a day. The Dr.s have just thrown up there hand, they can't understand how she can still be alive. Mom has the same problem with her heart as your mom but that doesn't seem to be bothering her. We have already called Hospice in. They took mom off all her medications because she could swallow pills and at this point the meds weren't doing any good.

Mom is going through many, many thing....the process of death and it is not a pretty picture.

If y'all do ever have to get to this point, talk to her Dr. and see if he recommends Hospice, they are GREAT....Mom never has to suffer at all, Hospice will not allow it. They call the shots...PERIOD!!

It is so very sad but stay with her as much as you can and make sure she knows how much you love her and that you will always be there for her no matter what.

Now, I stay at the N/H 8-10 hrs. a day. I bring my computer and a bunch of movies and I just sit in the recliner so mom can see me. We may not speak 10 words all day but I can tell she is happy just knowing I am there and it is just where I want to be.
Also, by my being there I can make sure mom is always positioned in the most comfortable way, give her water as soon as see asks or call for a nurse because mom can press the call button anymore. It just makes me feel better being there, making sure in these last days she is getting the very best care possible.

Then there are days when she wants to talk so I pull up my chair up to her bed and hold her and tell her how much I Love her. This is going to kill you...One day mom was really in the mood to talk to so she started telling me thing to do after she was gone. One of the things she told me was "Baby, you better be sure and not mess up, live for God with all your heart because I want you to go to Heaven, I am going to be there and I want to see you there too....did you hear me?" I said, Yes Maam.....

To sum it up, what your mom has to go through is out of your hands. Pray for God's mercy, love her but give her to HIM to take care of her and give you and your family peace. HE WILL!!!!

I don't know if one thing I have said has helped you but I hope it did...

Praying for y'all,

ps. after I posted this I realized your question was, how do we know when death is near, if you still want me to tell you later, I will...but let's hope she is not at that point yet...k

Last edited by SuZQ29; 06-05-2010 at 07:52 PM.

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Old 06-05-2010, 07:57 PM   #3
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

There is no way of knowing how long a person has in this life. The best guesstimates are just that.. guesstimates. We can't see the future and have to live in the moment with our loved ones. I truly do understand how frustrating it can be to watch your loved one deteriorate and not be able to do anything about it. Dad had arthritis in his knees and back. He rarely complained but it was one of the reasons he became unable to walk. Worse yet he forgot he couldn't walk, attempt to get up, and fall frequently. He also started losing weight and experienced A-fib.

It was after one such fall which resulted in a trip to the ER that I finally called hospice. They are the best resource to evaluate your Mom. They know what to look for. So ask for a consult. They will be honest with you and let you know their best guesstimate. At least that will give you some guidance.

I do understand your wishes for your mom. You wish for her to be happy and whole again. You wish for her to be pain free and able to move again. You wish for more for her than you do for yourself. I was the same way with Dad. I just wanted him free of pain and suffering. I miss him every day but I would not want him back in the condition he was in when he left me.

So stick with us. Each of us has, are, or will be walking in your shoes. You have found a place of true understanding. Welcome to our group ILove. I truly hate that you need to be here and are going through this but glad you found us.

Love, deb

Old 06-05-2010, 11:36 PM   #4
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

Could you speak with her doctor about a stronger pain releiver than what she's on now?

She shouldnt have to spend the last years of her life in pain - even if she needed Oxycontin to control her pain, so what, she would spend the last years of her life comfortable

Old 06-06-2010, 12:38 AM   #5
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

I agree, relief from pain should be a big priority. And Hospice is simply wonderful to help you with end of life concerns. I would speak to her doctor and contact hospice.

I am so sorry you are going through this, it is a phase we all have to pass through, and it is wonderful to hear of how you are caring for your mother. It is the ultimate payback to your mother, and I wish you the strength you need.

Come back anytime...

Old 06-06-2010, 11:58 PM   #6
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

Sweetie, I have walked a mile in your shoes and my prayers are with you. I lost my mom at 81 to Alzheimers. I cared for her at home round the clock for two years, but finally had to admit her to a nursing home when I could no longer transition her by myself. It broke my heart. I camped out in her room every day, all day. Most of the time she didn't know my name. But she knew we were somehow important to each other.

I don't think there are any easy answers for you at this point. Everyone's situation is different. Perhaps your mother IS feeling like it's time to "go home." She doesn't know what's happening to her, why nothing is familiar anymore. I'm sure she misses your father's presence, even if her memories of him had diminished. Being in and out of the hospital, transitioning into a new facility, etc. All these things are tremendously confusing and fearful for someone with dementia.

Even if she doesn't remember your names and doesn't want you hovering, so to speak, you and your sibs are her anchor. Be with her as much as you feel you need to be... quietly across the room if that's what makes her comfortable. That's your goal now, to make her comfortable. If she's living in the past, talk about the past. My mother was most comfortable talking about her brothers and sisters and her mother, because she was remembering herself as a young woman with babies, not grown children. It was difficult to accept that she no longer recognized me as her daughter because her Nancy was still a little girl. And no matter how many times I tried to remind her of reality, she was just never going to remember it. So I decided if she was going to live in the past, I would join her there. One day she didn't seem to be "with me." So I talked about what Daddy, the "tear it apart and make something new from it" man, must be doing to our mansion in Heaven while he was waiting for us. It was silly. But it was the first time in a long time that she laughed. That became my goal everyday... to find something to make her smile or laugh. Whatever amount of time you have to spend with your mother, you'll never regret the sacrifice. And that will bring immeasurable peace when you're missing her one day. She may be telling you to leave her alone. But, when you're not there, she's probably missing your presence.

None of us can tell you what the right decision is, as far as care and where it's provided. You just have to follow your heart with that one. As much as bringing her home seems to be the answer, you have weigh your desires against the realities of the situation, as well. With her limited mobility and her pain, which is probably worse now than when she was at home, can you and your siblings safely manage her care now, even with assistance? I know it's a heart wrenching decision. Whatever you decide, definitely look into Hospice care. They will follow your mother wherever she is - at home, in the nursing home, or in the hospital. They will be a great support. And they will intervene on your behalf if/when needed.

My mom had bad arthritis, too, and movement was very painful. She was not physically an acceptable candidate for surgery. But, I wouldn't have opted for it anyway at her advanced stage of dementia. She would have been very afraid of everything that was going on, and would never have cooperated with the post-op therapies necessary to return full function. I opted, instead, for whatever meds made her comfortable. But, there too, only you can make that decision for your mother.

I wish you the best and will keep you in my prayers. From the many fast responses, you can see that this is a good place to come for support and an understanding ear. Lean on us anytime. God bless.

Old 06-07-2010, 03:19 AM   #7
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

My mother's death took several months. In April of 07 she stopped processing food. Anything she ate (or was persuaded to eat) did not digest. Her body was shutting down. She lost a huge amount of weight. Somehow she stayed alive. In December of that year she caught a cold, which rapidly led to lung congestion and death. She was in a very highly advanced stage of Dementia, and she was 99 years old.

Mom spent the last 2 years of her life in a nursing home. For the most part she enjoyed it - she decided it was a health spa and did not see it as a medical facility. She was a sweet little old lady and everyone loved her. Bcause of a fall and broken hip, she was wheelchair bound, but never lost her happy disposition, even when she didn't recognize me or my siblings. She smiled at everyone and asked them how they were feeling.

When your parents lose their memory, they still have their personality. Some were combative and feisty all their lives; they will continue to fight this disease in every way, from trying to escape from the facility to hitting the caregivers. Others are complacent and allow whatever is happening to take its course. I was lucky that Mom remained her sweet self.

So far nothing can halt the disease - but research is being done. There are drugs to help with sleep, anger, nightmares, etc. I suggest you make full use of all drugs the doctor thinks would help. In the end Mom was on morphine for pain and that choking feeling. She did not suffer. She went peacefully to a better world. I miss her still.


Last edited by Martha H; 06-07-2010 at 03:20 AM.

Old 06-07-2010, 05:42 PM   #8
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate every single reply I have already received and sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Thank you for your encouragement, support and empathy. It helps to talk to people who "have been there" and are still going through a similar situation. I saw my sweet mother today at the place where she stays and I am so thankful she had a better day! I didn't hear her complain about how badly her knees were hurting hardly at all, and she smiled a lot today. She had one bad hour when it was time for lunch and she didn't eat a bite , kept saying she was sick, so I'm wondering if her meds are making her nauseous. I finally took her away to another part of the room away from the food in case even the smell was making her sick and she seemed to feel better. She watched some videos with other residents then I asked the staff to take her back to her room so she could nap awhile (they had to help her up and put her in a wheelchair so she is not walking right now, but maybe will get stronger again in time). She is due for a shot in her knee this Wed so I pray that will help for awhile.
It's strange because this time last week she was in the hospital and didn't seem to be doing well, and was making those hand gestures as if she was reaching for someone (so that's when I thought the end might possibly be nearer than we imagined), but now she seems so much better (which I'm thankful for). I guess you can never tell how one may rebound. She even ate a little pizza for dinner, although not much, but she did drink a lot today off and on. I agree with all of you about Hospice, I just don't know when is the right time for them to come evaluate her. Since she wasn't laying in bed all day like she has been doing...I don't think it's the right time to even ask them to come see her. was a good day considering she has Alzheimers and she was telling me how thankful she is for all the family, and to "be thankful everyday".... I will cherish her sweet words always. I hated to leave her since it had been such a beautiful blessed day being together. I will see her again on Wed. though. Thanks for your comments, thoughts, and prayers. I'm glad I have this support group!! Thank you!

Old 06-07-2010, 07:11 PM   #9
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

I am so glad you had a good day with your Mom Ilove I do understand when you don't want those good days to end. As for the rebound, it's just the way it is. Dad was up and down like a yo yo the last 6 months. He would be in bed all day for a few days and then up eating eggs for breakfast the next.

I do wonder what medication they might have given your Mom in the hospital. That reaching (I call it picking at the air) is common in delusions which can be a side effect of anti anxiety medication. I spent a long night and morning watching Dad pick at the air after way too much Ativan. So that could be the reason. Or it could be other medication they used to treat her or possibly the medical condition itself. But obviously she is better and for that you have to be thankful.

As for calling hospice... Dad was not bedridden when I finally called hospice. He was losing wait despite our best efforts and becoming progressively weaker. Yes he had good days and not so good days but in general it was a down hill decline. It is better to call them and have an evaluation than to wait too late They are such a wonderful supportive group of people. They were great with Dad.... but the support then gave to the family was priceless! They can answer all your questions and give you definite answers to your questions whether they come on board now or later I wondered at the time if Dad was ready for hospice. I called them the first of February and he died March 5... so you never know

Love, deb

Old 06-08-2010, 04:52 PM   #10
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

every day is different. i so know what you are going through. love your mother, spend as much time as you can with her because we cannot predict the future. i wish i had more time with my mother.

Old 03-03-2011, 03:43 PM   #11
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

Thanks! My Mom moved to the nursing home 4 weeks ago and broke her hip 2 weeks after moving there. she is back in the hospital with an infection from the surgery. I do not know how much more she can take. It breaks my heart and I have come to the realization that she will be better off someday than here on this earth. Your post was very refreshing. Thanks!

Old 03-03-2011, 06:15 PM   #12
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

Don't we wish we knew when death would come! Or do we??? Hmmm.

But, I am questioning myself daily lately as to how much more I can take...(as though it's all about me ) If I knew til June..then maybe ok..I could do it...but what if it is til next December? Can I keep going...of course, I will be there as long as she needs me but I sure question my strength lately.

I think this job we do of watching them leave us slowly is one of the cruelest on earth.

But... like someone said...I make it my job is to make her laugh or smile daily...and so far that is a success. Priceless.

Love, Meg

Old 03-03-2011, 08:37 PM   #13
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

It is the waiting and not knowing. Or that is what I found. You are both exhausted as I was. You do wonder how long you can go on. But when push comes to shove you just keep going on as long as it takes. That is just what we do. That is what I will do when it is Mom's turn and what I did for Dad. It is what you both will do.

I hate that any of us are having to go through this. But as Meg said... you just have to make the best of each day and find a way not only to make our loved ones smile... but find a smile for ourselves as well

Love, deb

Old 03-04-2011, 08:02 AM   #14
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

The doctors gave my MIL days to live but she lasted 3 more weeks. The Lord will take them in His time. My heart breaks for all of you. Day by day you will find the strength. Some days you don't think you will, but you will. Just remember to take care of yourself.

Old 03-08-2011, 12:12 PM   #15
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Re: How do we know when death is near?

It is quite personal about how you want to handle it for her end of life. At this point, the pain is the problem. Pain killer is important. Hospice can be applied if she does not eat much and has lots of pain. Hospice is for comfort care and it does not kill her earlier unless she has lots of pain and needs heavy medication to make her doze off. Hospice can be re-applied again in 6 months. I hope you have already found some solutions.
keep us posted,

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