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Can you actually help someone die with dignity?

Asked by  |  Mar 26, 2013

Five years ago, I was the caregiver for my mother who was dying from lung cancer. We had never had the closest mother-daughter relationship in the past, but with a her prognosis ( one year ), we became very close. We both aploogized for past behaviors and let go of a lot of issues. She passed away at the Hospice care facility six days after her 66th birthday. She just slipped into unconsciousness and passed away two days after.
My father-in-law probably has less than a month to live. It is hard to tell with copd, but the hospice wokers feel the time is near.
My husband and I take care of him. He is complete denial about his disease. When the hospice nurse tells him that she has seen a steady decline, he argues with her or just ignores her. The chaplin has tried to address some issues with him,same thing. He refuses to talk about anything remotely spiritual, although he claims he believes in God. It is clear to all, that he is terrified and just lives in denial. The problem is, my husband and I are drowning in caregiver burnout and I know not talking about things are not healthy.
His symptoms are aweful; constant dypsnea, coughing, hacking, weakness. He refuses to take the small amount of morphine presrcibed for breathing or the atavan for anxiety. He refuses to change his disposable undies thatt become soaked. I have treid everything with him and for the most part I am patient and calm.
I do believe a part of him, must know the end is near. I have told him the choice is his,as far as his meds., but that I refuse to sit in the house with him all day and watch hims suffer, when there are meds., to help him.
All of this has of course made me question my own mortality. It just makes me physically sick to watch this old man, dying in agony and so many pains from his past that could be let go, if he just talked to my husband, his oldest son.
I know there might not be anything I can do, but I have decided to at least try to talk to him. He also denies being scared and denies denial. Sometimes, I feel like Alice in Wonderland, where everything is upside down.
Is it possible for my father-in-law to be so out of touch with his feelings, that he believes he is not even dying? Is it even possible for me to help him?
Thanks,
Dina

 
 
 
  •  Answers 1 to 10 of 12 
 
 

MishkaM

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Mar 26, 2013

Hi Dina,
I had a neighbor who denied how ill he was and then he lost consciousness and passed. He was pretty young , though, 42, -cancer- but I do believe this man did not accept his death outwardly. But who is to say what he went through when we saw him as unconscious? We have no idea if he went on a journey inside his mind where he came to terms with his passing and accepted it( I kinda want to really believe this).
SO --This was years ago and I was quite young and, well, prideful, and he was a lapsed Christian and I really ,really wanted this man to find Christ again before he passed. I even went so far as to load up the back of my SUV with pillows and blankets and the Bible and ask for special permission to drive my SUV up onto the beach of a nearby lake (he loved the lake) so that I could load him up and , on the quiet setting of the winter beach, try and save his soul :0/ His wife gave me her blessing btw. Anyway- there we are on this deserted beach with me all aglow with self righteousness and good intentions and all he did was hit on me- in his weakened and frail state he still found the strength to hit on me.

I learned then that everyone is on their own journey and as much as we may want a certain thing for them. in the end, we cannot force a path for them-- and that I am not that good of a preacher. It may be so hard to watch and I don't think that means we should not try and , gently, help them by listening and offering gentle advice when asked but , ultimately, all we can do in pray and let go. IMO. Blessings to you all during this very hard time. ((((hugs))))

 
 

jeannegibbs

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Mar 26, 2013

Can we help someone die with dignity? Sure. You did it with your mother. Can we force someone to die with what we consider dignity? I doubt it.

He may choose to suffer. You may choose not to watch it (while still providing care for him.)

I think it would be good for your husband if he could clear up outstanding issues in his relationship with his father ... just from his side, if father isn't interested in exploring them from his end. Perhaps it could take the form of "remember that time when ..... I wish I had done x differently."

 
 

crystal1224

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Mar 26, 2013

Oh how painful this question is for me but in another sense I would like to share this with you. Everyone is different and many have a rough time with this aspect of their end of life spiritual and mental conditions meaning it is hard. Unless we have walked in these same shoes who is to say how we will react as well. I know one thing my father accepted the Lord years ago and the things he said and did before he passed someday I shall write a book about it. He passed on March 8th and the pain of loss is still too raw for me to even write but I felt compelled to write to you here on this. Through my 27 months of caretaking for my beloved father I learned so much about patience and how to talk to him...It is hard but we must also give others the same respect as if it were us when and if we ever fall ill.. I wish I could be easy on this answer but I can only share my own personal experiences and not everyone will be able to relate. Trust me get some relief I never did and I am feeling the pains all over again with my fathers passing but only harder now...you do the best you can do and that is all you can do..Leave the rest to the Almighty One who's plan is all in his Almighty Hands. I pray for you and send you support and prayers today and the days ahead. It is not easy and we here on this site know all too well how much caretaking can whip you up. I did mine all for the love of a man that I will forever miss and carry his legacy in my heart..you will do the same. When they lose all quality of life we can only sit back and watch them suffer endlessly just waiting for the day to come when they no longer suffer in this life...thinking of you now. God Bless

 
 

ChristinaW

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Mar 26, 2013

Dina, and Crystal who I know we will hear from in the future with some awesome spiritual missive: God and His Angels are in touch with these dear souls passing over. We must let go, we mortals who are doing the physical care and get so tired and wrapped up in the worries , physical and spiritual.
Let Go... You are doing enough, Sweet Caregivers. xo

 
 

crystal1224

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Mar 26, 2013

Thank you Christina your words warm my heart...the things that happened in my home in the wee hours of the morning preceeding my fathers journey probably not everyone will be able to relate to but I will tell you this..it was the spirit and the message my dear cousin sent me at 3 am that I will never ever forget and the glow in the room from a cup that I had for my son that never glowed....just amazing what I experienced that early morning. I will never forget it ever..and that smile on my fathers face told me a story I would love to tell...thank you once again. Hugs out to all of you.

 
 

ChristinaW

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Mar 26, 2013

I know about 3 am messages:) I look forward to your recount, if we are so fortunate to share in your personal experience. Thank you for stressing the spiritual, as that is what continues after this human test. Take care, xo

 
 

AlwaysMyDuty

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Mar 26, 2013

Crystal, please, when you are ready, share your experiences. I have seen and I believe. I do not fear death after what I have witnessed. I so agree with Christina the spiritual remains. May God help you through this sad time. Your daddy is with Him now. My daddy too.

 
 

crystal1224

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Mar 27, 2013

Yes thank you to all of your messages. The hours and days leading up to my fathers passing were the roughest to witness and go through and I will tell you all this when I seen his face that morning he had a smile and there was no pain or no anquish on his face..this told me the story..that he was happy when he crossed over. There is so much to write about and I will do so in time here. I just want to say days before when I went to greet him in the morning his face was and showed so much pain and his mouth would be downward...that morning I did not see one inch of anything to display any pain or sorrow..it was that smile that made me feel and know that he was okay and like I said I never spent the night in the room the whole time Daddy was with me here in my home...it was that night I did and it had to have happened between 3 am and 7 am but I never heard a word. Someone told me that God did not want me to intervene between Daddy and Him so I feel like some fairy dust was poured over me so I did not awake. So many nights I was in that room and checking on him and he would be moaning and discomfort.I decided to sleep in that room that night since the night before he fell off the bed and my son got me up at 5 am..I wanted to be there in case he needed me and I am still stunned that I never heard one sound coming from him. I second guessed everything I did the wee hours of the morning and the last night was the roughest ever here at home...I wanted to hold his hand. I wanted to be with him in his moments but like I think now...He did not want me to witness this and he greeted me in the morning with that smile I will never ever forget..it told me a story..he was at peace. While my heart is paining me I know he is in a better place but the pain of losing my father is the hardest pain and no matter how much I knew one day that day would come...you never know just how much it hurts the loss..I will see him again someday and I remember him telling me so. I also remember him asking me to go with him one day....he said I wish you could go with me...he was fearful but he was also telling me for months - It will be okay honey - He said that over and over again.. I wonder now and think..what he was telling me was he would be okay and I and Joey would be okay too..As I am still numb and trying to go through it all I know this heartache will creep back in as the love I had for my father was like none other before in my entire life. The day before he passed I remember him grabbing my hand and telling me this - I do not know what I would do without you honey. He kept grabbing my hands and one day that week he placed both of his hands on my face and those eyes piercing through me...he said I am dying honey, don't let me die, don''t let me die...this part is the most painful....and then that one tear from his right eye I wiped away and told him it is not your time Daddy..God is not ready for you.; My father knew..He knew...he knew I was sleeping in that chair and I had told him the day before to try and calm his body down to let it do what it had to do and let go....I kind of regret saying that but I knew he was in such a bad way and I never seen him in that bad a shape that whole week. So many things I have to write still about it and when I can compile it all I will present it here. I will leave this one comment now - I know whoever greeted my father that he was the happiest man and it showed on his face. There was no frown or pain on his forehead. He was and is in peace...now I need to have that peace too but it is so hard at this time to ease that pain. Knowing his look and feeling his look assures me there is life after death and I so believe what he said - Someday we will be all together again. Easter is coming and he always made Easter bread and I can not think of a holiday but I will try to make that Easter bread. It will not be like his but I hope I can do it......memories of the heart....forever.. Love all of you here. xoxo

 
 

crystal1224

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Mar 27, 2013

Dina I just wrote a long message to you on here and just as I was about to end it the whole thing disappeared...wow I am shocked how did that happen... I think I will write in my Word and save it in case it ever gets lost ...what I will say is I am sorry to have got off your question and again I just wrote everything to you and lost it:( Try to do your best and leave the rest to the professionals to do as you can only do so much and make him comfortable as you can.. Dying is a process and not everyone goes through the same things. Denial is a process and not everyone goes through this either.. It is the respect we give to others at their time...it was hard for my father to accept his illness and he fought such a hard fight to stay alive...towards the last few months preceeding his passing he came to accept that he lived his life and he was ready. So much more to say but I am going to submit this now less I lose this message.. Blessings to you Dina and to all of you wonderful people on this website. Hugs

 
 

crystal1224

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May 17, 2013

Dinagrey how are you? I am checking in on this thread and hello to all of you that I have missed reading and writing to. May God continue to bless our caregivers and their loved ones they care for. Miss you all here ..Hugs

 
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