txmaggie Asked August 2009

If I can't get mom to eat, what are the legal implications of letting her starve herself?

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Mom is 92 and in the early stages of multi infarct dementia, blind in one eye, almost blind in the second, can barely hear with a hearing aide. Terrible balance and always a fall risk. Before she started getting confused, she repeatedly told me she was tired of living like this and was ready to die. She lives with me and I have her on a 3 small meals with Ensure 3x/day to maintain weight (99 lbs). She was recently in respite care for one week and lost 5 lbs because they didn't "encourage" eating and let her refuse the Ensure. My sister is telling me I shouldn't pressure Mom to eat, that if she wants to die I should just let her eat as little as she likes and "let go". Can one do this? Should I see her doctor for advice? If the dr says it's OK for Mom to choose not to eat much, should I think about hospice? What are the legal (as in Adult protective services) implications of letting her starve herself? Has anyone been in this situation? Help!

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Aug 2009
There is a difference between encouragement and forcing. Think about which is going on.

I'd take her to her doctor, and I’d ask about hospice. The doctor can help you decide if this is the right move.

She still has rights, but you and she need some medical advice. Her comfort and contentment are the important factors here. She may be very uncomfortable with food because of a correctible condition, or it may be her organs are shutting down naturally and her body doesn't want food. A doctor should be able to tell you what is going on.

Take care. You are a very loving person and are thinking things through. Please let us know how it goes.

Carol
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tashapig Aug 2009
I'm sorry that you are going through this difficult time. My dad was 87 years old, was considered blind and had dementia. I agree that you need to seek help and hospice was amazing when I decided that it was time to let my dad go. I did not force food but did swab his mouth with cool water. The day he died was hard but I felt he did so with dignity and grace and that I got to be a part of that process. I hope you know that you are not alone.
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Dear txmaggie, I loved tashapig's message to you, about knowing you're not alone. Many of us will have to walk that path, as well. Praying for the comfort of you and your mom. I'd think the doctor could guide you, and give you recommendations for her care. You mom is blessed to have such a wonderful daughter to care for her needs.
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1215 Aug 2009
Dear txmaggie. Hospice will be such an asset for you. My father is 96 with Parkinsons and I have hospice for him. They actually have some patients that they have had for a couple years so do not think that you can only have their help when your loved one is dying as my dad has improved since they have been here to help me. I have an aide who comes three times a week, a nurse, a social worker, and a chaplain and they have been a God send. They are very caring and knowledgeable folks who will help you with everything. God Bless You!!
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trustinGod Aug 2010
I'm in the same position. I'm sitting here crying my eyes out now, she is on hospice and they told my that refusing to eat was one of the first things that they would do, this puts this in "so called" power. Mother is about 92 lbs now, can't get up, she doesn't know me most of the time. I don't know what to do. I know a nursing home will not take care of her needs like I do but, I feel llike I'm not doing such a good job now. I can't even force her to drink ensure now. Hospice has been a God send, they come in and bath her 3 time a week, the nurse checks on her2 =3 times a week and if I need her she comes. Trust me, my prayers are with you, all we can do is pray.
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tashapig Aug 2010
I am once again writing because after my first post I lost my mother. I once again felt helpless knowing that I could not do anything to stop the process. However, I knew I had to let her go. It all happened fast. One day she was doing pretty well and the next in a lot of pain. I asked that the Hospice team be called in. The beauty is that they were there to hold my hand and to help make my mother comfortable. I know she is in a much better place, free to run and be with the man of her dreams once again. I just hope that all of you know that you don't have to do this alone. There are many wonderful individuals who would love to hold your hand! I'm sure of it.
Marie
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Dear txmaggie, you are in a very painful time. When my mother, 78, stopped eating, the doctor put her on an anti-depresent which helped.

I think you need some legal advice also. Did your mother give you or your sister Medical Power of Atty. If so, you need legal advice to understand some very important parts of that document which would apply now.
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toadballet1 Aug 2010
End-of-life issues are so hard to deal with because, in our culture, we are taught to fear death or at least avoid discussions about it. It leaves we caregivers in a precarious place. Do we follow our belief systems; that all life is precious and should be preserved to the bitter end? Do we help along someone who has consiously chosen to leave this earth for a better life in the hereafter? Do we have the right to make this choice for ourselves? I struggle with all these questions. All I can say is that I would notnot choose prolonged life for myself if I had to be connected to tubes and machines. It is quality over quantity for me everytime. But, when trying to help someone else make these decisions, or even more harrowing, to help them along in the process, it becomes incredibly stressful.
As caregivers, we can only do what we think is best for our loved ones. Often, we are left alone by family to make these decisions by ourselves because it is just to "icky" for them to think about.
IMHO, this life is a beautiful "test run"...our bodies house our spirits...and when that spirit is someday released, our true life begins.
Peace to all who are making these decsions right now.
Lilli
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txmaggie Aug 2009
Thank you to all who responded, and I apologize if this is a duplicate post. I started typing a reply and went back to look at some of your comments and my post disappeared. Anyway, you are all so wonderful and I don't know how I could get by without this website.

I took mom to her dr today and he gladly ordered hospice, saying it was not only indicate for mom, but that I needed support also.

Yes, legal stuff was taken care of years ago when my dad got sick, POA, living will, etc. Mom is still with it enough to tell me she doesn't want anything done to keep her around, no feeding tubes, etc. My sister lives 2000 miles away but is very supportive and basically backs me up on everything I do. After reading about some other people's family nightmares, I am so grateful for her.

I'm looking forward to meeting her hospice nurse this week. She will be sent from the same agency who has been doing Mom's home health care, and her shower aide will stay the same. That's a big relief, as this lady has been coming here for almost 2 years and Mom has gotten really attached to her.

Again, thank you so much, all of you are angels.
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joellen1010 Feb 2012
This had helped mo so much. You seen to be such a wonderful bunch of caregivers. I learned more from this blog then from my mother's Doctors. They don't tell me much. Not sure what's down the road. Thank you and god bless all of you. jes
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