What do you do when an elder parent decides that they no longer want to live?

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My father is an unusual person. He would have probably been diagnosed with Asperger's if such a diagnosis existed when he was younger. As he has aged, his separation has deepened. He communicates almost nothing, so one has to be psychic to try to figure out what he wants. It has been made worse by his loss of hearing.

He has never been very happy and had no social contact with anyone other than my mother. He has been "doomed" since he was around 50, when he was diagnosed with high bp. In recent years, the doom has worsened. He is completely agoraphobic at 91 now and it is a battle to get him to a doctor. He doesn't want anyone coming in. Any trip to the doctor or visitor in the house stresses him so utterly it is hard to describe.

He wants to die -- that is apparent. He throws his food away and does nothing to help himself. Two weeks ago we went to the doctor. It was a day that was so terrible that I don't even like to remember it. He goes into melt-down and becomes paralyzed and helpless. Since that trip, he acts like each day is his last. He eats almost nothing. He throws it out when he thinks we're not looking. His legs have swollen, but he refuses to elevate them. We need to get a doctor and health services to come into the house, but going through this with him is a nightmare.

Tonight he apologized to me for being such a problem. I wasn't my normal sweet self and told him to stop it. I told him the grim reaper wasn't anywhere near, so he needed to get back to trying to live.

I pondered the right to die today.I have always thought people had the right to die with dignity if there was no hope. However, I also realized that the others around the person had a right not to be subjected to it. It is torture watching someone slowly kill himself by not eating or neglecting himself in other ways. Plus there are legal ramifications, I'm sure. We can't just let him slowly kill himself. I'm sure to do so would be elder neglect.

I know many people here have dealt with this type thing when their parent is ill. Putting my father in a nursing home would probably bring his death quickly, so I do not want to do that. I don't know what my mother would do without him.

Does anyone have any advice on how to handle this without a NH? I never thought I would be dealing with the right to die issue. There are so many moral and legal considerations. Besides it is just upsetting, depressing, and sad to deal with everyday. I am so angry at him for being so selfish as not to consider what he is doing to others. But then, the autism has always robbed him of the capacity to know his effect on others.

As I wrote this, the answer dawned on me. The choice to him will have to be either eat or go to the NH. He may have the right to die, but we have the right not to watch him do it. Right?

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I support Isn'tEasy in reminding you not to assume stuff. Among other things, don't assume you know that "the grim reaper is years away." You made comments like that a couple of times in your various posts. You may use such a comment to try to cheerlead people into taking actions that could prolong their life, but they may experience it as a denial of the reality they are grappling with. So, so SO many times we need to figure out how much of what we are doing in the name of care for someone else, is actually for ourselves. Often it's entirely legitimate to be doing it for ourselves, don't get me wrong! But it's much easier to solve problems when we're clear on what they are. You did a great job of that when you realized you needed to investigate the legal issues. Keep clarifying what's really at stake for yourself as things develop ..... Good luck.
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It is extraordinarily hard to watch a loved one refuse food. Our family recently went through this. It is a fact that loss of appetite is a part of the dying process and I truly believe that everyone has a right to die with dignity and without intervention if they choose. So many are robbed of a good death in our country.
In our case, about half of the family was able to come to terms with the refusal to eat, the others continued to urge him to eat right up until he lost conciousness. It's a very individual thing. There's no right or wrong way to feel about it. Don't assume your dad won't qualify for hospice. Hospice does make housecalls and they will support your whole family in coming to grips with the situation. It's definitely worth doing an evaluation.
Don't assume that your dad will pass quickly if he enters a NH. As his condition worsens, he may wind up going in and out of the hospital from the NH, undergoing one invasive and intervention after another (with your family dragged through each heart-wrenching ordeal), if he enters the NH without being under hospice care. The NH has to respond to the patient's condition and if it becomes life-threatening, he would be rushed off the the hospital (over and over again). Considering how he reacted to a simple doctor visit, that would be torturous for him.
Best of luck.
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Become more present yourself. Learn to live in the present moment. (People like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie seem to be the best teachers of this currrently.)

That is the only way you can help him.

And....as a great by-product, you lessen your chances of being caught inside your mind in your later years.

As the saying goes "get out now!" ....of your mind, I mean!
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I'm sorry about Hospice,I'm glad Home health care came in.tho. my brother's are coming home since my mom is not doing well .Family visits are helping my mom pep up.It does help knowing your family care enough to come see there parent.so I hope for everyone that family will care enough to show up to show thier parents or parent how much they are truely loved.just never throw in the towell never give up and never give in.Just hang on to hope.Hugs to all of that are caring for their parent it is not easy.especialy the ones that are caring for their parents or parent.We pray and do the best we can!! I would never put my mom in a nursing home,my mom I will charish she took care of me when I was growing up now it's my turn,and it's everyone that their parents or parent raised them,show as much love as we can while we have them ,even make movie video of them that's what I tell my mom,I tell her their for my memorys I need that and her grandchildren need that.Even pictures are good.Hugs to all the ones that care for thier parent be patient,not easy beleive me I have been there.Keep on keepen on.make sure you tell your parents or parent that you love them! I always tell my mom how much I love her.Everyday not just once a day it brings a smile to their faces! Something you can cherish forever! Hugs everyone!
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Living wills are so important but most elders prefer not to make that decision it is easier to let their adult children make that decision -I was glad it was in place when after years of poor health he became critical when it seemed like the other times during the last weeks in rehab that he would become unresponsive for 15 min then be fine again we did keep him on life support for a few days until it was evident that his brain and heart were damaged beyond repair and then stoped all measures and he died 12 hrs. later but in the end it was what he had requested so they was no guilt on our part and his death was very peaceful and he did not suffer-if a family member has not made the decision ahead of time the person having to make that decision can only do their best with the advice of a M.D. and not feel any quilt.
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I wrote a response to JessieBelle earlier in this thread. But, I wanted to direct a comment towards everyone who has written here.

I lost my mother in April. I hadn't found Agingcare.com until after her death. I wish I had known about it before she passed as the articles and commentary would've been helpful in making decisions and dealing with one of the hardest journeys we face in life. Better late than never. The marvelous feedback from all of you has been comforting and inspiring to me in looking back at what transpired with my mother...and looking forward.

You all are angels...thank you for your time, your words, your thoughts, your compassion!
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My mom is the same way and she is only 74yrs.old and does not care to live longer,smoking herself to death.But now she on Hospice 850-689-0300 They have been alot of help.If you need to get away for acouple hours so you can take care of situations they can get someone thier that can stay with your parent untill you get back home,and they can help with your bills anything you need help thats what there thier for..God Bless You!!
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When a person is very old and in pain and their quality of life is poor I see absolutely nothing wrong with letting them die with dignity. The people around them who will be "affected" need to understand that it's not their life. Sure, I didn't want my mother to die as I went to work, went out to dinner, went shopping and she was at home, suffering with nothing in her life. I realized how selfish of ME. My mother decided it was time to "go" and I understood and I love her for it. She didn't need to stick around because her death would have devastated ME. My wish for her to keep living was selfish and not fair to HER. I say, let our loved ones go in peace. I will see her again.
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My mother has terminal cancer. she has two colostomy bags, a fistula and a lot of pain - and she wants to die.
Many times she refuses to eat, but what we noticed is that when her grand children come over she is in better spirits and they encourage her to eat, even if its a snack. She refuses to watch her favorite tv shows or listen to music, or visit the doctor. She cries if we discuss Hospice care. She thinks she is a burden to us, no matter if we tell her otherwise. She just wants to lie and die in her bed at home. We try our best to give her whatever she wants, although it pains us to watch hers suffer so much, but in the end we want to believe we did the right thing. We don't want to wonder later on if we should have done differently.
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My father at 91 also wanted to die for the last year of his life -- he hadn't been well for a couple of years, all of his friends had passed, etc. One day he seriously told my mother that he wanted to die and she gave him permission -- please understand this had been a long process and she finally accepted that he'd had enough. The next day he had a massive stroke. He didn't die, but he was 'gone' . He had a living will stating that no extraordinary measures be taken in such a case and we gave him what we felt was a loving last gift, we let him go. Seven days later, he passed away. That was five years ago. Strangely, I felt immense relief and an odd sense of happiness for dad when it was over - we miss him every day, but his time had come and he knew it before his body did.
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