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When do you tell a mother she is dying

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Old 03-09-2005, 08:57 AM   #1
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jmurs HB User
Question When do you tell a mother she is dying

My aunt is dying from cancer. She is doing ok now but was given 6 months to a year. My cousin does not know what to do about telling her mom she is dying. My aunt has dementia so the thought is don't tell her she won't remember anyway. Mostly everyone in the family says don't tell her at all. She is 82. My cousin is the caregiver and lives with her mother. She wanted opinions on the subject of if and when she should tell her mother.
When my mil died and we had hospice they told us she should be told. Even though we didn't want to, we did tell her.

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Old 03-09-2005, 10:22 AM   #2
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MellyMel HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying

Originally Posted by jmurs
My aunt is dying from cancer. She is doing ok now but was given 6 months to a year. My cousin does not know what to do about telling her mom she is dying. My aunt has dementia so the thought is don't tell her she won't remember anyway. Mostly everyone in the family says don't tell her at all. She is 82. My cousin is the caregiver and lives with her mother. She wanted opinions on the subject of if and when she should tell her mother.
When my mil died and we had hospice they told us she should be told. Even though we didn't want to, we did tell her.
I think everyone has the right to know if/when they are dying. She should probably tell her and she probably won't remember anyway, but she will feel better knowing that at least she had told her. God Bless!!


Old 03-18-2005, 01:25 AM   #3
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ShakeItUp HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying

I just lost my dad to cancer yesterday. We didn't tell him that he was actually dying from cancer. He knew he wasn't getting any better but we didn't want to tell him what the doctor had told us. My dad has had cancer for a really long time and when he went into the hospital in December we were told he had approx. 3 months. When he went to the doctor last week on wednesday the doctor then told us he was responding to the medicine well enough to give us probably 6 more months. WELL, the doctor was wrong! My dad also had kidney failure so he had been going through Dialysis 3x a week. On monday he had surgery to have a fistula(something for his veins to do the dialysis for those who don't know) put into his arm. After surgery he seemed ok. Although he did take a long time to wake up after surgery. The morning after I was with him to take him to dialysis he was a little disoriented and we weren't sure why. The doctor at dialysis said they thought maybe from the medicine they used to put him to sleep for the surgery. He was almost through with his dialysis when he became unresponsive. They rushed him to the emergency room and had no clue what was wrong with him. This was tuesday night. We were then finally told in ICU that they think he had a blood clot go to his lungs and heart.
Sorry to put so much into this post but I needed to just put it into words because I still feel numb as if this isn't happening.
I lost my dad early Thursday morning and we weren't expecting it.
I can say that I am glad he didn't know he had a certian amount of time left because in our situation the doctor changed his mind and was wrong!
His first thoughts on 3 months were almost right on the spot.
We also think the surgery may have brought the blood clot on.
I know that since he didn't know for sure he only had a certian amount of time, he was happy and full of life. For my situation if he had known I think he would have had a hard time dealing with the knowing.
Oh I miss him so much and can't believe this is real!
Nowone can ever be sure if telling someone they are dying is the right thing to do. You just have to do what you feel is best for the person at hand and the family.
God Bless Everyone and you and your family are in my prayers!

Old 03-18-2005, 09:10 PM   #4
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tkgoodspirit HB Usertkgoodspirit HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying


First of all, my sympathies to you and your cousin. And I have to say this is such a personal time. Death is so personal. It belongs to the one who is dying and it affects those who love them so deeply, that feelings are all mixed up.

My mom died at the age of 65 in Sept. of 2003. She had small cell lung cancer that have moved to her brain and intestines. She couldn't stand the radiation, so all treatment was stopped. Her diagnosis orignally was 6-8 weeks, and I believe her doc told her, but she didn't comprehend. It was right when she was attempting the radiation, and they brought a lawyer to her so that she could fill out a will. It's funny, cuz mom had every detail of her funeral, right down to the creamation taken care of, but she had no will. She always knew "how" she would go, she just was suprised at how "soon". Which isn't really surprising as death comes to us early in my family. Her mom died when she was 58 (my grandma) and her brother died just two years earlier at the age of 49.

But anyway, after a long thought, and knowing how my mom was, I decided to tell her myself. I picked a time when she was "good", thinking pretty clearly. She had good days and days that were confusing for her. I knew my mother would want to know, she was that kind of person, straight to the point. So I have to tell, you, it was extremely hard. No one else would tell her, but they all agreed she should know! I am an only child, so I know my mom pretty well. When I decided to tell her I made sure I had her full attention and I also told the nurses (she was at a care facility, where she stayed until she died, even though we planned on hospice bringing her home, she just gave up on that notion and felt more comfortable being where she was) that I was going to tell her, and when I would be telling her. So, I told her, and she was "okay", she hadn't remembered. And I asked her then if she would like to talk to one of the nurses incase she had any specific questions, and she did. At first the nurse, who was fairly young, didn't want to, but I assured her, it was what mom wanted, so she sat with mom and mom asked her questions, and you want to know what the first question she had was? "What will my skin look like?" LOL I had to laugh, she was very young looking for her age, and I guess that was a worry of hers! Like I said she was originally given 6-8 weeks but she made it nearly 6 months. So, you never know about these things. But once she found out, then we got the ball rolling, so to speak, she told me where to find certain papers, she told me what was to be done with her things, who was to get what, I was to pick out her urn, I made the final arrangements with the funeral home, I even had her investment broker come see her in the facility to talk to her about her retirement funds. She wrote down every thing, for fear that the next day, she wouldn't be able to remember something. It was a little trying, but we got through it. The one thing we didn't tell her was that while my mom was dying from cancer, her sister, age 54 was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. So, my aunt had cancer and was going through treatment while my mom was dying. We never told mom that and I think that was a good decision. Sally (my aunt) never made it to mom's funeral cuz she was going through chemo, but one of her daughters and her husband came.
I'll never forget bringing some of mom's close to her room so that she could pick out what she was to wear during her service. Do THAT once in your life, and you'll never forget it. Another thing that we told mom and it was kinda hard, was that I had driven up once (she was in Iowa and I live in Alabama) and was going to take back the stuff she wanted me to have in a trailor. Most of it was furniture she had since I was a child. But it had to be done then, and it was hard to tell her that, and it did upset her, cuz she hadn't yet gone. But myself and my aunt had to do it then, cuz the owner of the house was going to move into the house and we had to get her furniture out. It was a hard decision to make, as are all the decisions at a time like this, but you have to make them. Whether they be good ones or bad ones, they have to made, and dealt with. So, mom was coming home from time to time, but then she got too ill to get out and when she did come to her house, I think she got upset, she just couldn't stay long, she would get sick and we'd have to put her in her bed. So after we moved her stuff, she never went back to the house.

But, your cousin just has to know her mom, and go with it. Is she the kind of person who would want to know, she has to consider that, I think, and will she understand when she is told. You mentioned she is 82? That's a good age, she's lived a long time, and I'm sure she's a smart woman who knows that her time to go is not far. I think it's harder when the person is younger, and expecting to get some more out of life. But have her go with what she feels is best for her mother. I can tell you this, it is a very special moment that is shared between mother and daughter, mother and son, or who ever, it is a very special and never forgotten moment. It doesnt' come along very often, thank goodness, but to me, it was an honor. I wanted to be there when mom passed, I also think THAT is a great honor, to be there when someone passes over, but evertime I came up when they told me it was time, she'd hang on. So I finally left, I am applying for SSD and I had a hearing I had to be at, and I told her I wouldn't be coming back, and the nurses wanted her to be told that it was okay to let go, so when I told her I wouldn't be back, I think she did just that. She died four days later. And her last words to me were "I never told you enough how much I loved you."

I'll always remember those words as much as I remember telling her she didn't have much time left here on earth. And you know what is surprising to me, knowing my mom, how prepared she was with all her funeral service arrangments and finances, I mean, EVERYTHING was paid for and she left no debt. She didn't own her house, she was very organized, and I was very lucky, however, she was very scared to die. She'd expected it for so long, heck for most of my life I heard she that she was going to die when she was 55! Imagine the "I told ya so's" when she turned 56! But she was really scared of dying and that bothered me. Death doesn't scare me, of course I'm not dying, but in general the idea of dying tomorrow doesn't scare me. But it upset me, that it did her. She even asked me once "Should I be afraid?" I told her I didn't believe so, that it would be a wonderful peaceful experience and that the only sad thing was that she was leaving my world and the world that she knew, so early.

So, I hope this helps you a bit. I know I went off, I usually do, but I felt like you should understand the dynamics of the circumstance. Everyone is different and everyone's death is very personal.

Here's wishing you and your family a good spirit.

Old 03-19-2005, 08:45 PM   #5
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Janette215 HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying

im sorry to hear about your cousin and aunt. thats a very difficult thing to deal with. my great grandma had dementia and her son died and it was very sudden so we couldn't tell her before she was upset but i don't know if she understood it fully. i think with this kind of situation it is hard. my nana (diff. person) on my moms side recently died in december and she had always been in and out of the hospital but we knew that she was going to die because the doctors told my mom. we didn't want to tell her but she knew. she was going thru all the things that happen to you when you start to die and it was very hard for all of us. what my mom did, she was the primary care person for my nana, was ask all 6 of her siblings what to do, but it also more complicated, she had kidney dialysis and my mom had to decide whether to turn it off or keep letting her get it. if it was turned off she would hvae died, but we didnt want her to suffer anymore so we decided to let it get turned off. anyway, they eventually decided to tell her its ok she can and that she can go. i think that sometimes when people are dying they just need to know that we arent going to be mad at them, even if the person has dementia i would just try to make them feel like its ok, as hard as it is and as much as we miss her, none of us wanted her to suffer anymore. in the end they are at peace and thats just how you have to think about it as much as it hurts.

Old 03-25-2005, 07:45 PM   #6
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ladybug8372 HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying

i just lost my dad march 17th..he had emphysema. he knew he was eventually going to die from this disease. I knew when he went into the hospital this time, that he would not come home..but all of us thought he would live at least another week. i am too emotional to go deep into this..but i will tell you one thing. i stayed the last 2 nights with my dad (at his request)...he woke up at 6 am that better, but definitely not worse..and definitely no where close to dying. the dr came in...and told him that he was not going to get better this time, that his time would end either that day...or within a day or two. My dad IMMEDIATELY started hyperventilating...and IMMEDIATELY went downhill. I tried to stop the dr from telling I knew how it would affect him...but he said it was the law and his duty to tell him.....not having the strength to fight I was not prepared to be told that he would be dying that day. I didnt do anything about it. I REGRET that decision....I TRULY feel that had they left my dad alone and let things take place naturally...he would have lasted another few days..and he would not have had to endure the suffering and pure agony that he went through of not being able to breathe. he was TRYING to hold on until my sister came home from another state...which she was due to arrive on the 18th.

My dad did not want to die...he feared dying. When the dr told him that he was most likely going to die that dad went all to pieces. he reached for his urinal to pee in...and was shaking so bad that he peed all over the place..never hitting the urinal. He hyperventilated...enduring a VERY agonizing death. It takes 3-4 doses of morphine for it to kick in...and was only allowed to be given once an hour...He was given 2 ativans (nerve pills), plus the morphine..and 2 hours later...still heart wrenching, heartbreaking ...BEGGING for "someone to turn his oxygen back on" (it was on..he just was hyperventilating and couldnt feel that he was getting oxygen).....After 2 hours...the dr okayed an increase of dosage of morphine...and added xanax to it. he suffered with the feeling of having "no oxygen" from 10 am--until 2 pm--when the meds FINALLY kicked in and made him comfortable. He died at 5:30. So..he spent most of his last day in unforgivable agony.

my lesson learned from this....ok tell me if i have 6 months to a year.....DO NOT TELL ME I HAVE A FEW HOURS OR DAYS!!! I am going to have a paper notorized stating dad might not have lived but just a few days longer....but i think had he not been told...he would have held on to see my sister...i think he would have died in peace...i dont think he would have suffered in the way that he did...had the dr just let things happen naturally and not tell him. dad KNEW he was dying....there was no point in him having to hear those words.....that just made situations worse. and i will always believe that his life was shortened by being told that he was dying.

Last edited by ladybug8372; 03-25-2005 at 07:50 PM.

Old 03-28-2005, 08:19 AM   #7
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Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying


My heart just broke for you when I read your post. Especially knowing the way I felt about my dad. Just my opinion, but a daddy-daughter love is so special. Anyway, I could not believe the words I was reading! You are so right. The doc should have taken you aside and told you that your dad would probably not last the day, he shouldn't have told your dad that he was going to die that day. And I don't know about that being any "law". I suppose they have to tell the patient when they are dx'd with a terminal illness, but to tell them that they aren't going to make it through the day. That's just awful, to me. You don't want to spend the whole of your last day scared. That's time for family and for peace. How horrible for you, and I'm sure it's a memory you will not soon be rid of, I am so sorry.

That is why I said in my post, "telling" depends on the person and the situation, and the doc should always talk with the family before he/she blurts out news like that. I chose to tell my mom, but it was at the begining of her dx's but I can't imagine anyone telling her on "the day" they thought she would pass. Just like your dad, she knew. The worse she felt towards the end, the less she could do, she just slept more, but I know was still "aware" and I'm sure, though I wasn't there the day she passed (missed it by only 4 days) but I'm sure during moments of "lucidity" she "knew" it was her time. And just like your father, she was scared to die. That is such a touchy situation. You have to be very careful when someone is afraid of dying, as you so unfortunately witnessed.

I'm sorry for your loss. You are a good daughter being there with your dad when he passed and I'm sure he's with you now.

Here's wishing you a good spirit,

Old 06-17-2005, 11:36 AM   #8
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mightyquin HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying

My mom is 88 and has been dx'd with small cell lung cancer. She also has Alzheimers disease. She has some lucid moments but forgets things the minute after she's been told. My siblings, my mother and I all went to her doctors appointments. We were able to ask the many questions we had but mom seemed to be in a daze. We have discussed the situation with her and knew her thoughts on the subject. She has decided on no treatment what-so-ever. I feel pretty confident in her decision. She is in no pain and has no symptoms but her prognosis was 6 months. I don't know that telling her made any difference other than the fact that she was the one who made her own decisions. As of now, she's as oblivious of her condition as if she'd never been told.

Old 06-17-2005, 05:33 PM   #9
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tmarie HB User
Re: When do you tell a mother she is dying

My dad died of cancer on April 23, 2005 at the age of 61. We debated on telling him when he was first diagnosed but we did because we felt he had the right to know. He got all his affairs in order to make it easier on me and my brother. He was thinking of us......we took care of him at home until the end and it is something I will always be grateful brought us closer. I lost my mom 5 years which was not expected at the age of 57. I feel every indivdual has the right to know of their fate...they need to prepare themselves..

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