Father has chosen to die.

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My widowed 87-year-old father was stricken with serious pneumonia earlier this year. I traveled 1,500 miles and stayed for a month to see him through hospitalization and rehab. He seemed to recover, yet rather than choosing to continue rehab, he demanded to be released to hospice care. He has long held a desire to choose his time and mode of death through hospice, which admitted him under somewhat false circumstances. He has difficulty swallowing and refused any feeding tube, so he has virtually stopped eating, which does create a terminal condition.. During my recent stay and afterwards by phone, he has been abusive and mean and judgmental of me, the only family member left (there is another daughter lives nearby, but she refuses to be involved). I feel terrorized by his "death drama," scared of being expected to drop my life and be with him whenever he commands and let myself suffer more abuse. I feel guilty for wishing it were over and angry about the abuse I suffered all my life from this sometimes kind but often very mean parent.


Unfortunately this "choosing to die" happens in elderly. There is no quality of life and they no longer want to continue the suffering, disappointments and decline. There is nothing you can do about that. This is his choice to go on hospice and refuse food, etc. not yours. But you shouldn't be scared of his "death drama" and be expected to drop your life and be with him as he sees fit. He is trying to control everything all the way to his deathbed. I suggest you not let him abuse you any more. Visit him when you feel up to it - or not. And please don't feel guilty for wishing it were over. We all feel that from time to time because it is hard to watch day after day after day - with what seems like no end in sight. We're here for you and want you to take care of yourself first. ((HUGS))
I personally feel that the choice of death is up to the individual. The problem comes because of the impact the choice has on people around. Much of the impact comes from our thoughts on death and our battle to avoid it. As I grow older and have seen my parents decline in such a horrible manner, I understand the death wish more. My greatest wish is that I pass before I become a burden to myself and anyone else. Perhaps it is how your father feels. I would say just ask after his care and make sure he is comfortable. 87 is a good age and I believe people should respect his decision about what he wants for himself. I know how hard it is to come to peace with the decision. My father also wanted to die, and seeing his slow decline was torture. It was that helpless part of me that felt death needed to be fought, instead of accepted. When he wouldn't eat or threw his food away, it made me feel angry and defeated. I wanted him to try to live, but he didn't want to, so I felt helpless. If I could have just somehow thought, "Okay, this is how it is," it would have been easier for me. But I couldn't make myself think that way, so it was torment for me.

I am not in favor of suicide, but suicide is a different thing than letting Nature take its course. If your father is otherwise in good shape, it may just be depression. But if his body is tired and his health not good, I understand his choice not to fight anymore. If he was an abusive father, I understand your choice not to want to watch him as he ends his fight. I've been through it and know it is more difficult than most could imagine even when a person is not abusive.
I can't tell you how helpful your comment is -- I have no one around (except my partner) who understands what I'm going through. I desperately need some therapy, but my insurance doesn't have any coverage. You correctly noted the "control" factor, which I realize has been going on for many, many years -- I was required to drop everything to make the long trip (and stay indefinitely) many times, with illnesses and deaths of my sister and mom. These commands, and my dread of them and those trips, has made me phobic. My father likes to use the word "selfish" to describe me (and my siblings in the past). At the same time, he discouraged my independence and fostered financial dependency. He hurled bitter accusations and denunciations at me via phone just before he left rehab -- it left a permanent scar, and I can't seem to care anymore. All I feel is horror and anger. Thank you so much for your healing words.
JessieBelle, thanks for sharing your experience. I understand the wish to die on his own terms, but he has used it as an occasion for emotional bullying, and is angry that he isn't getting the responses to his act that he hoped for. I agree that it's against human nature to watch someone refuse to eat and try to sustain life, especially in the absence of a painful or truly debilitating illness. Yes, it's his choice, but everyone's life and decisions has serious impact on the people around him, and he seems to have always been unable to understand other people's feelings.
In spite of his history of abuse, you gave your dad a month of your time to see him through an illness. Feel good about that generosity. Even if Dad isn't able to see that was a good thing and show appreciation, you know you did a good thing. Feel proud.

This Hospice time could be an opportunity for some reconciliation. It could be a time of better bonding, which would be good for both of you. Keep yourself open to that opportunity and if it sounds possible it would be worthwhile (in my opinion) to go to him one more time. But getting abuse from his deathbed would not be good for you or for him. It would be good if you can make connections with his main hospice nurse and the hospice social worker, explain the sad dynamics of your relationship, and let them keep you informed of his condition and frame of mind.

You may be "expected" by your father to drop everything and make command appearances. You cannot control what he expects. But you can control your responses. You don't have to be at his beck and call. Really. Work with the hospice folks. They are there for family as well as for the patient.

I have seriously mixed feelings about hospice in this situation. Dad admits he's "conning" them, having finagled admission to hospice care on the basis of his heart condition (which has been stable for many years). It echoes his methods in his business life -- making deals, bending the rules -- a way of life for him. I understand that life holds very little interest for him now, and he's been talking about wanting to die for years now -- yes, I get it, life has nothing for him (certainly having a daughter doesn't mean much). He has always been extremely negative, and now is a complete nihilist, rejecting everything, including life itself. The hospice nurse took great pains to argue to me that he is very ill (actually it's because he's making himself ill). I can't help feeling resentful about the fraud involved -- he has forced them into assisting his suicide -- and I'm repulsed by his wasting away 1,500 miles away, by his own choice (and having high expectations of me as he does it). It's ghastly and infuriating.
Perhaps I'm missing a part of the picture. Or your dad is indeed a very good con-man, because hospice requires a doctor's order indicating a 3 to 6 month life expectancy. If his heart is stable, how did the doctor order hospice?

I'm not doubting YOU in any way, miranda, as I know personally how controlling a negative parent can be. My mom is making my life miserable by refusing medical care for things (skin cancer, heart problems) that could cause her to die I live my life on pins and needles waiting for the next phone call.

It isn't fair and it stinks to torture us this way. It's sad and infuriating all at once. And hurtful in the way that they can't see outside themselves enough to realize how much their willful neglect causes so much stress in our lives. They're narcissists and control freaks right until the minute they die.

If he, like my mom, is rejecting life itself, so be it. I tell myself that I've let go of the guilt and stress. (ha-ha) It's easier said than done because we're essentially cut out of different cloth. That kind of mindset is foreign to us.

That nurse would've ticked me off too, but keep in mind, she is operating under doctor's orders. Your bone to pick is with the doctor ordering hospice. If you have medical POA ask to see the issuing orders regarding prognosis, etc.

It's awful to feel so helpless, especially with you being so far away. Sometimes you just have to give in to acceptance of their choices. It's their life, after all. Try to find the hidden gift it holds and live your own life differently from the lesson this experience holds.

You are not alone on this road, know that. I hope it brings you just a little bit of peace.

It does, and thank you, windytown. I feel an almost physical relief in the support from people on this forum.

I know exactly how you feel about the deep dread of the next phone call. I can't really untangle the hospice issue -- certainly if he is unable(?) to take nourishment, he will not live, but somehow in collaboration with hospice, the orders were written based on the heart condition. I don't really care about the technicalities at this point -- nothing I would do would change it or make him want to live.

But it is confusing in a way that resembles the psychological confusion created in my childhood, where things were not right, but my parents denied there was anything wrong. I was labeled "sick" for reacting to things that they denied existing, and hauled to psychiatrists, medicated, hospitalized. I know there was nothing wrong with me, but my parents believed in the words of so-called medical professionals, as though they were gods. I knew they were wrong.

About living your life differently, I agree that is the gift. I am determined to stay positive in my own life, to give to others and to hold onto what is precious and dear and not succumb to dark negativity as a way of life. Clearly I have a lot of unexpressed resentment about my upbringing.
miranda, I understand about not worrying about the technicalities. At this point it's pretty meaningless. I more or less pointed it out as that is what the hospice is dealing with, the issuing orders. Dying is dying, no matter the cause.

With your dad, and in a way, my mom, the physical heart isn't what is causing them to give up so much. It's their spiritual heart. Your comment about being a daughter isn't enough to live for, hit home with me. I feel the same.

Our childhoods are diametrically opposed, which is interesting in the way that we have kind of come to the same place. I was a very emotional child and was told to pull myself up from my bootstraps. When I was close to suicide in college, I got the same advice. They were in denial about my very real feelings. I learned to deal with them all alone. It was a painful process. So I'll swap you a few "therapy cards" for some "bootstrap cards". Not trying to make light of things...but we're both survivors and for that I'm glad as we would not be 'talking' right now!

Don't feel bad about the resentment. We all have it. There's also the guilt about things we could've/should've done in situations. It's what makes us human. Hold onto the precious part and let go of the negativity. Easier said than done, I know. Please keep us updated on how you and your dad are doing. This board saved my sanity when I felt most alone. You'll be okay too. ((Hugs))
windytown, what you wrote about the spiritual heart sounds exactly right to me. Thanks to everyone for helping me here.

I know that he feels very alone and unloved, which of course makes me feel incredibly guilty (even though I could never make a difference). He gave up on life after my mom died, rejected and refused any suggestions about things he could do to find some pleasure and purpose in life, and I think he became fixated on the idea of planned suicide after a friend decided to terminate his dialysis and die -- my father talked about this endlessly, what a great thing it was that his friend had that option. Now that I think of it, he thought my mom wanted to die during her illness (long story, won't go into here) -- I was happy when she told me "No way" to hospice. She did NOT have a death wish, but my dad has been obsessed with dying, even when his health was remarkably strong and his mind razor-sharp for a man in his 80s.

I think I understand why he barked at me, "You promised me no nursing home, and where am I now?" when he was in a nursing/rehab facility -- the suicide is, I guess, a way of preventing the loss of control and confinement in a nursing home.

I can't help feeling there is something wrong and destructive about bringing about your own death by starvation. It's really hard to think about, and hard for me to make those phone calls to him and hear how he's wasting away.

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