Bhenson Asked March 2012

Anyone have the horrible fate of deciding if mom lives or dies?


My fell 9 days ago in the bathroom and broke her neck. She's 87 years old. She was living with me at the time. She's been in the hospital since but hasn't eaten in over 8 days now and they can't get her meds into her. They stopped her IV meds and want her to take meds by mouth. She is refusing and is completely confused, scared and just plain not there anymore. I guess they call it hospital psychosis. Today, the docs want to talk to me about alternative solutions for her meaning feeding tube I guess. She is a DNR and I am absolutely sure about her wishes. She would never want to live this way at all and has stated many times before this that she was ready to meet God. She is not paralyzed from the fall. Has a neck brace on as surgery was out of the question. They have her hand tied in mittens cause she was pulling off the neck brace. She's become a very difficult woman now and is actually not very nice. I adore my mom so please know this before I ask this next question. I'm an only child so I have no other people to really ask. Should I allow the feeding tube so she doesn't starve to death and gets her meds or should I do what she has asked me to do and allow her to eventually "go to God"? Even writing that sounds like I'm a horrible person. I'm really lost here so any help would be appreciated.

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Mar 2012
I'm so sorry about your mother. It all sounds horrible, but you are NOT a bad person to want to follow her wishes see an end to the suffering. Death is a part of the life cycle and is unavoidable, no matter how much medical attention we get.
You are fortunate in that you know what she would have wanted. Palliative care - comfort care - is certainly what I would choose for myself under those circumstances and it sound like that is what your mother has wanted. Who would want to live this way with no chance of recovery? I know that it's a very hard decision for you, but please remember you want to see an end to her suffering and let nature take its course. You are a loving daughter with a good heart. We are with you. As you can see, many of us have had to make similar decisions. Please check back with us and let us know how your are doing.
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BelleFleur Mar 2012
You don't sound like a horrible person. You sound like a person who is in agony over a decision you're going to have to make. Don't feel alone.

I take it from your question that your mother doesn't have a living will. It sounds like you've discussed matters like this with your mother, though, and that she's made her wishes clear. If you know your mom's wishes are NOT to have a feeding tube, then no, don't let them place one. She may surprise you and begin to eat again, and she may not. Whichever, if she's made her wishes known, honor them.

My question would be why the hospital stopped her IV if she's not taking anything by mouth. Just because they WANT her to take her meds by mouth and she can't doesn't take away the fact that she still NEEDS her meds, as well as they hydration an IV can provide.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. Making choices like this is not easy, but remember: sometimes we have to do what is right, not what is easy.
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kuli Mar 2012
My dad's hospice nurse asked me if my dad were his old self and was looking down on the situation, would he want to live like this? My response was no and so we stopped his heart medications and he passed 5 days later. You know your mom's wishes and even if she is confused she may have made her choice by refusing to eat or take her medications. I know it's so very hard but whatever your decision, go back to what her wishes are and you will make the right choice. My prayers are with you ~ Kuli
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oldcodger2 Mar 2012
I remember well when my MIL had to make a decision about a feeding tube for her husband ten years ago. THEY HAD NEVER DISCUSSED THESE ISSUES. He was 80 and unable to swallow anymore. She did it and later regretted the decision. AFTER I got back home (I was with her then) I researched feeding tubes online and basically found that they may extend life a few weeks or months but do absolutely NOTHING for the quality of life.

If you know your mother's wishes - then follow them. If you know she would not want to live this way - why force her to? If you have discussed this issue with her and know her wishes - SHE HAS MADE THE DECISION ALREADY - you are only respecting it.

The doctors should be able to tell you her prognosis. If she has a good chance for recovery - at least continue the IV meds and fluids. IF her prognosis is poor - well, there will be an unhappy outcome and tears. We can live 30 days without food, 3 days without water, and 3 minutes without air. (an old saying of my mom's)

We cannot make your decision - but I would think twice before inserting a feeding tube into an 87 year old person who is ready to meet God. Ask the doctor what will be the quality of her life if you do everything medically possible? It may NOT be the quality of life she would want to live. Sometimes we are only prolonging suffering.

When I researched feeding tubes after my father in law was operated on - I found that often they do this procedure for monetary reasons - not humanitarian ones.

These are sad days for you and I am so sorry you have no one to help you bear this burden. Whatever decision you make, may it be the right one for you and for your mom. It will be difficult - not matter what.
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Yes, I faced the same thing about ten years ago. My mother had a stroke. After her treatment in the hospital, she was placed in a nursing home, to hopefully get some strength back, so that she could come home. While in the nursing home, she developed Sepsis, from diabetes, and had to have her leg removed. That was the hardest decision that I've ever had to make. They assured me that if they took it off, that she would live. They called, and called, until I gave in. I spoke with my mom about it, and, she said that I should not have to make such a decision. But, due to their insistence, I finally gave in. She never got better. She died a couple months later.

At first, I was so guilt filled, and angry. I hated the doctor, because, he said that she would live, if they removed her leg. I had to finally come to the realization that she would have died either way. And, that I did what I thought was best at the time. It is the saddest think in life, when we have to make those kinds of decisions. I thought back to the kind of woman my mom was. She would not want to live sick, being the kind of person that she was.

Above all, know that you are not selfish or anything other, than trying to make the best decision that you can make. And, that is all that you can do. I wish you peace.
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pt34 Mar 2012
I went through this last year. My mother was put on a respirator. After 1 week, I was told they had to take it off. She was off one day, and was not doing well. They had to put her back on. Then they started asking me if I wanted it removed for good. This was do you watch your mom gasp for breath (or in your case starve to death). Then her heart stopped and they revived her...this happened 3 times.
Finally, a very caring nurse sat down with me and asked me if I would want to go through all of this, knowing that the prognosis was not good. She explained that even though my mom probably wasn't totally aware of what was going on, she still was being put through hell. She asked me to look at what quality of life I expected my mother to have if she were to get through this. I had my answer at that point. The last couple days, they had to insert a feeding many tubes and cords sticking out of her neck. After almost 2 weeks of constant pain and agony, I signed the DNR for her...she passed the next day.
I understand what you are saying being an only child...I have a brother, but he lives far away, and I had to make all the decisions on my own.
I feel so much empathy for you...I grew up a lot during all this.
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jeannegibbs Mar 2012
My heart goes out to you. You are in the spot we all dread. But at least you know your mother's wishes. It is not like you've been out of the country and barely know the woman -- you have intimate knowledge of her attitude. I agree with BelleFleur: honor your mother's wishes.

It sounds likely that in order to keep a feeding tube in place she would have to be restrained even further, either with drugs or physical restraints.

You are not a horrible person at all. Far from it. You love your mother enough to consider what is best for her, not what is easy for you.
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3pinkroses Mar 2012
You are a kind and loving person trying to do what your mother would want. My heart breaks for what you are going through especially being an only child. Go with your instincts - and what you and only you know to be the best decision for your mother. Breaking ones neck at the age of 87 is such a traumatic experience - can't imagine. Bless you and I will keep you in my prayers
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I have been in your shoes. My beloved mother in law was put on life support & a feeding tube after she had a heart attack on the operating table. Marie was a active & vibrant 85 year old. Fortunately she & I had talked about end of life issues. She did not want to live like this. My husband & I made the most difficult decision of our lives, we took her off life support. It was heartbreaking, but we did the right thing. It was an act of love for us. You are a loving & compassionate daughter & just want the best for your mom. Good luck to you.
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JessieBelle Mar 2012
My only question is would she recover some if she was fed, or would she continue to live in a terrible condition.

I recently made a couple of decisions on my father's behalf. He was 91, his organs were failing, he had no will to live, and had a living will. The hospital staff did work and found his carotid arteries were mostly blocked. They asked if we wanted surgery to clear them. I said no. On the day he died, they asked me in the morning if we wanted them to do CPR if his heart arrested. I said no. I was able to say no without hesitation and with no guilt, because I was speaking for my father. If you know that your mother is not going to recover, your "no" will be speaking for her. God bless you.
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