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Trying to guess how long my mum has

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Old 05-30-2009, 08:14 PM   #1
tom surgeon
Join Date: May 2009
Location: UK
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tom surgeon HB User
Trying to guess how long my mum has

Sadly I believe my mum is dying. She has cancer which was being treated but she had various complications and she is now back in hospital. Unfrotunately it has been difficult to get much information from the doctors there.

My mum stopped eating probably 2 weeks ago now, and was taken back into hospital about 1 week ago. All the signs appear to be of her dying -

she is virtually not eating at all
she has lost huge amounts of weight rapidly, to extent her eye are sunk back into her head
skin in her legs has beceome ulcerated for no clear reasons
her breathing is shallow / irregular
she is confused or often not communicating although most of the time asleep. When she talks (very little) it is often nonsense or even paranoid delusions
When awake she has her eyes nearly fully closed and her mouth hangs open, both I think signs of no energy / body shutting down
Her hands are ice cold
She is pulling at sheets in repeated twitching motion

Most of the above I've seen elsewhere as signs of impending death. But all sites that describe them as such dont define "impending" - I dont know whether they mean hours, days or weeks. Problem is I've got to try and let relatives who are abroad know whether to come over now or in a week ro two, or whatever.

This may all sound very cold, but I dont want to go into emotional side of things here as I'm struggling to cope with multiple family members with cancer and if I concentrate on practical things I just might hold it together awhile....

If anybody can offer any advice as to what these symptoms mean in practical terms - whether they are likely to mean my mum has only hours or days or simply that she is slipping away but could still be with us for weeks or even more, I'd be very grateful.

One thing I'm unsure of but prob just my ignorance, I cant see why my mum is in hospital rather than a hospice. Dont know what is normal ?

Thank you vey much.

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Old 05-31-2009, 05:03 AM   #2
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Re: Trying to guess how long my mum has


Only God knows of the plan for death. It could be hours, it could be weeks.

You say "well I have to let people know they need to come over". Well, that can be done even after the fact. Call them and let them know if going to occur but you don't know when.

When it does happen, the funeral palor may be able to hold the body for a few days OR you just go ahead with your burial plans and then invite everyone over for a memorial service after the fact.

Then the pressure would be off your shoulders.

Old 06-01-2009, 06:10 PM   #3
charmed one
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Re: Trying to guess how long my mum has

Tom..I am so sorry about your mom. I just lost my mom Sat to lung cancer. There are signs they look for when the body is changing in death but I also know that someone can live for weeks with very little vital signs.(This was told to me by a hospice person) We are not having the funeral til Wed. When my MIL died the sunday before Thanksgiving, we waited until after Thanksgiving for the funeral. Dont worry about the death part. Be with your mom and talk to her. She can hear you. Make this time count.

Old 06-01-2009, 11:31 PM   #4
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
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Demi93 HB User
Re: Trying to guess how long my mum has

Hello Tom,

You have my sympathy. I wish I could answer your questions but I am seeking similiar answers. My best guess is that your Mom is so close to the end that they don't feel they should move her. Do you think she should be in a nursing home or have the care set up in her own home? You might have luck getting an answer from the doctors if you get help from the hospital chaplain. Or raise a ruckus until they hear you (the squeaky wheel gets the grease). Maybe they don't want to answer because they don't know but perhaps they could give an estimate from looking at her symptoms.

My mother is being looked after by my Dad. They are in a hospice program at their home (in another state from all of their children except one). The hospice brought in a hospital bed and there are Aides and Nurses who look in and help him. It was March when they were told there was nothing left to do medically and she has stage 4 bone cancer which is spreading. They set up the Hospice care then. All they are doing medically is trying to keep her out of pain and adjusting dosage or adding meds as a new situation warrants. I do know that for a person to get hospice care the patient must have disease they could die of within 6 months.

My mother at 82 yrs is exhibiting "Terminal Restlessness", Dementia, hallucinations, and my Dad is exhausted but doesn't want anybody else to care for her. They have been married 59 years. He even takes her in the shower with him instead of letting the Aides bathe her. She also has had a rapid weight loss and will only eat a couple of spoons of food if anything before pushing it away. I was there the week of Mother's Day (May 10). that week the doctor added a medication to help her with the agitation.

The drug causes her to sleep more and what little glimpses we would get of the real "mother and wife" were then gone. but, without the medication she probably doesn't spend more than 5 minute or less sitting in one spot before she is trying to go somewhere whether you are there to help her or not. Also she would get out of bed she would start pulling her clothes off . I guess something in her brain thinks she is just waking up in the morning and has to change clothes. When she isn't wandering around agitated she is sleeping so even sometimes just waking from naps starts her trying to change clothes.

I don't know if your mother is closer to passing than mine. If your mother wasn't taking some of her medications might she be up roaming around too. I do know if they put my mother in a nursing home they would increase the meds that make her sleep. My Dad doesn't like giving them to her because she sleeps so much (hospice authorizes family to give meds). Does your mother get Ensure (liquid diet). Are they with-holding nourishment or fluids?

Sorry this is getting long. I could go on and on but I'll wait for your reply.
Don't forget to take care of "You." I wish you the best and May God give you added strength.

Last edited by Demi93; 06-01-2009 at 11:44 PM. Reason: clear up a point

Old 06-02-2009, 04:22 PM   #5
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Re: Trying to guess how long my mum has

I recently lost my father, and he experienced many of these things in the last week of his life. He was in hospice and they were very good at educating us about the signs that death is imminent. One thing to look for is what is called "terminal congestion", which used to be called the "death rattle." You can see why they changed the name. when people are dying they usually experience respiratory congestion and their breathing is very noisy and it does kind of sound like a rattle. It is usually a matter of days when that happens. The other thing to consider is whether your mom is taking in any fluids. My dad was not able to drink anything for 2 1/2 days before he died. We can live without food for a while, but we can't live without water. If she is not taking in any fluids, I would guess 2-3 days would be the max that she would survive.

I want to say that my thoughts are with you and your family. Even when we have time to prepare, losing a parent is hard. I found comfort in thinking about all of the fun times we had shared and knowing that my dad was not suffering any longer and was in a better place. It is still sad to think about the fact that we will not be creating any new memories, but I cherish all that we had. Best wishes.

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