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Dying with Dignity???

Ginx525's picture
Ginx525
Posts: 16
Joined: Aug 2010

Mom is 76 this October, numerous heart/breathing problems and was just diagnosed in July with rectal cancer while she was in the hospital with a heart attack. She has decided to not have chemo and to just go with the radiation. She is on day 5 of treatment and is already weak and having diarrhea and has lost most of her appetite. She weighed 92 lbs two days ago at the dr's office.

I am trying hard to back off and let her make her own decisions. It is her life. I am trying to keep my emotions as her daughter out of it and let her decide for herself. I realized the other night that I have been driving myself crazy over things that she has already decided for herself. I keep a baby monitor in her room in case she needs me at night and I would catch myself listening for her, making sure I can hear her breathing. To what end? She has discussed with me the fact that she does not want to be resuscitated in the event she does die. I have her DNR and her living will and I know what she wants. We have discussed it on several occasions. I have to accept that. I have been pushing her to eat when I know that she doesn't want to, doesn't feel like it. Should I not let her be? At this point isn't it about making her comfortable and letting her last days be what she wants them to be? She lives with me and I am her caregiver but I can already feel my families (mainly my only sister's) frustration with me for not pushing her to try everything possible. I want her to feel like she has her dignity and has control over her life.

Am I doing the right thing by backing off?

tootsie1's picture
tootsie1
Posts: 5061
Joined: Feb 2008

As hard as it is to accept, I believe you're doing the right thing.

*hugs*
Gail

Lovekitties's picture
Lovekitties
Posts: 3356
Joined: Jan 2010

There is no right or wrong that I can see.

I assume your mother is of sound mind and it seems she has given you the right documents to see that things are done as she wants.

Is now the time for her to give in to her health problems? No one can know for sure. Are her other health problems critical? What have her docs said of her overall condition?

As for the eating, have you tired any of the protien drinks like Boost? When I was recovering from surgery and couldn't tolerate the smell of most foods because of the meds, I would get about half a bottle served to me in a juice glass several times a day. Easy enough to drink and it helps promote healing.

It also sounds like your family needs to get on board and understand that you are following your mom's direct wishes and not your own. If there are serious issues there, it could be a problem if you ever have to use the living will or the DNR. I have heard some docs and hospitals do not honor them if there is strong pressure from close family members (even though they are legal documents).

Only your mother can know exactly how much she has left to give to fighting her ailments. The one thing you cannot do, as her caregiver, is to take on guilt for what you do or don't do, especially if you are trying to follow your mom's wishes.

We always want our loved ones to fight as hard as they can to stay with us as long as they can. But at some point there is no fight left. Then is it our job as loving family to release them from their worries and let them know that it is ok to go.

Hoping that you, you family and especially your mom find peace of mind and heart.

Marie who loves kitties

AnneCan
Posts: 3692
Joined: Oct 2009

It is her life, but sometimes we do need encouragement from our family. When I was on chemo + radiationlast summer, I drank a ton of smoothies if I felt like I couldn't eat much. My youngest one often made me one for breakfast + you have a lot of variety with them depending what you add. Good luck to all of you.

christinecarl's picture
christinecarl
Posts: 545
Joined: Sep 2009

Yes you are doing the right thing. We all have our own end point, she is at hers. I am sorry for you and your family. Watching my mom die from colon cancer was a million times worse than my own treatments and diagnosis. I hope you have family and friends there for support. You are all in my prayers.

John23's picture
John23
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

Re:
"I am her caregiver but I can already feel my families (mainly my only sister's)
frustration with me for not pushing her to try everything possible."

Have you let your sister and family talk to mom themselves, alone?
Perhaps they just don't realize your mom's feelings are so strong...

I am a stubborn mule myself, and my wife pleaded with me to
get a scan and a colonoscopy when I thought I had IBS. I waited
until I was in so much pain that I was blacking out.... and by then
I had a tumor totally obstructing my colon. So yes, I do understand
how stubborn one can be regarding health....

But I also understand that sometimes a good shove could do what
no amount of pleading can do...

Her decision to go with radiation isn't all that odd, since even here
on this board, so many seem to feel that radiation isn't anything
to fear. There is a terrible misconception of what can injure us beyond
repair; a very terrible lack of fear of what can kill, and way too
much fear of cells that are simply growing somewhat uncontrolled.

The fact that she does not want to be resuscitated in the event she
does die, should be respected; that is her wish. I would caution her
however, that she should make certain that in the event that her heart
stops and can be re-started, she may be opting for having absolutely
nothing done to revive her. That "do not resuscitate" order isn't one
of those "pick and choose" documents; it's a literal order.

While in ICU I refused any heart medications, regardless of reason.
They asked me to sign a "do not resuscitate" order, and I told them
where to stuff it. "Don't give me meds if I'm still alive, but if I die,
do whatever to bring me back" (within reason, of course).

Mom should be made to understand the ramifications of what
she might have signed. One can "die" for a few moments and be
revived quite nicely, but that piece of paper can make that fleeting
moment quite permanent.

Your mom is only about ten years older than I am, and I'm stubborn
as hell. Age doesn't make one incompetent, or unable to make good
decisions, some of us have been that way since birth....

But when we're scared (as your mom probably is), it's not always
easy to keep fear from controlling what we do, or the choices
we make, and that's where you as a caregiver can enter....

If there's a remedy or a treatment that can be of great help to her,
or one that can be very detrimental to her overall health, it's up to
you to bring that information out and in front of her.

And as difficult as it might be, you have to give her the courage
to fight her fears, and do whatever it takes to remain alive.

It's not easy being a "caregiver", but cancer never does make
anything easy.

My best wishes for you all.

John

luv3jay's picture
luv3jay
Posts: 534
Joined: May 2009

You are definitely doing the right thing. As someone who is going thru this, I want my family to respect my wishes about my treatment. Unfortunately, they don't always do so. They constantly second guess my decisions always thinking their way is better. But they aren't in my shoes. They haven't walked these long hard miles. I had previously had 22 rounds of Chemo. It just about wiped me out when combined with the numerous surgeries. Now I'm facing more. I wish I were her age with grown children...who knows, I probably would have thrown in the towel. But my children are still young and they need their mommy, so I continue to fight. Let your mom decide for herself, as hard as it may be. Just let her know how much you love her.

Sheri

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

My Mom is 91 and recently went to a rehab/nursing home. Of course the plan is to get her back home (after a series of falls) but she know what is going on. We have DNR orders in place as she wishes. While none of us want to see her go (especially HER) she is aware of the situation and what could happen. As I mentioned ealier in a post, we have a cousin who's mother in law was ready to die with DRN orders in place. Her brother in law stepped in (without anyone's consent) and decided not to proceed. the woman is a vegetable now with tubes making her breathe, eat, and do everything else. She is "alive" but not living.
Yes, it's a final decision but if she wants it, she should be allowed it. It's her life and her's alone.
I think you ARE doing the right thing by backing off.

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