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Terribly hard spot to be in, as Jeanne says.  YOu've gotten very good guidance.

I would only add have you read "On Being Mortal" by Atul Gawande? It's a great book when faced with choices and issues like this.

I would also get Hospice involved right away in a situation like this.  Even if the prognosis is that the patient has more than six months to live, I would start interviewing various hospice providers to see what the differences in levels of service offered are.

I was very, very glad that we talked to the hospice provider that we ultimately chose well before mom needed them.  
Helpful Answer (16)

Hmm. Hard one!

Do they have symptoms they want explained?
Would they understand the diagnosis?
Would they remember it? Or ask it over and over?
Of course this would upset them. It would upset anyone. Do you think it will fill the rest of their life with distress?
Are there other options for treatment? Is the patient able to understand them and make decisions about them?

I would have told my husband (I think). I would not have told my mother. I would probably want to know myself, but I really can't predict how I'd be if I had dementia.

This depends on the patient's personality, cognitive ability, symptoms, and perhaps prognosis.

Are you facing this? What a tough spot to be in!
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Don’t tell them. Keep them safe, and comfortable, and let them live out their life in peace.
Helpful Answer (11)

It depends.


they don't need to know
they don't ask
they show no interest in knowing

then no. What on earth for?


they ask
they need treatments which have to be explained
they cannot make sense of their surroundings without knowing

then yes. But use common sense and proportion, and your knowledge of the person's temperament and ability to understand, so that what you say to them is not confusing or needlessly frightening. Reassure them that they will be taken good care of, and that the doctors and nurses and caregivers know what to do, for example.

It is likely that the information won't stick, either way - if the person doesn't know what's happening, he will keep asking. If you have told him, he will still keep asking. One approach to this aspect of the problem is to find the form of words that seems to comfort him most and keep to that.
Helpful Answer (11)

I wouldn't. Why upset them. Or they won't understand or forget. At that stage I couldn't explain anything to Mom. Her mind just went from one thing to another. Nothing you are going to do about it right?
Helpful Answer (10)

I have come to this forum twice to ask if I should tell my mother bad news. I received great advice and comfort. The main thing I learned is there really isn't a right or wrong answer. Choose what you think is best, and then be ok with your decision.
Helpful Answer (9)

I'd like to echo the recommendation for Atul Gawande's book. It is a wise, personal book and will fuel much helpful thinking for any of us.
Helpful Answer (4)

My dad is in this situation and I did not tell him. He most likely would not remember. He has lost a great deal of weight since diagnosis but doesn’t talk about that either.
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It in my estimation would be that if a person has dementia then it would be a REAL blessing to have them pass from cancer. It won't necessarily be quickly from dementia and the passing would for my wife be a blessing. She has Vascular Dementia and it is a slow moving slippery slope. God is blessing us during the times of stress although she doesn't know how stressful it is to hear her talking about the things when it is repeated or asked frequently. Prayer changes things, but it is for God's glory and not our own choices. HE knows what is best. Learn to live life for HIS glory.
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My choice would be to not say anything.
This of course depends on how cognizant the person is. If they are, what I would call "self aware" then maybe yes.
If NO treatment will be done then there is no point in telling them.
If some treatment is going to be done then the trips to the doctor or hospital are going to be stressful and that may require an explanation, over and over and over.

As you all know I am very pro Hospice and that would be my call. Contact Hospice have the person evaluated and I have no doubt that they will qualify. You will get the help you need from Nurses, CNA's Chaplain, Social Workers as well as equipment and supplies that you will need. Don't worry about the "6 month timetable that some say you must be limited to. As long as the diagnosis is "life limiting, no cure" and no treatments are being done the person will qualify. My Husband was on Hospice for a bit over 3 years.

Does this person have a POLST or DNR? The POLST is a newer version more detailed than the DNR?
Had this person ever discussed what they would want done, or not done?
Even a comment made about a friend or family member might give you a clue as to what their thoughts and wishes might be or might have been.

Not an easy thing to do, decide for someone a major decision like this. All you can do is think about what this person was like and let your heart guide you. There is no right or wrong answer. The answer might be different for each person. I know what I would want done and I have made my wishes known to my friends and family. So if you can take clues from this persons life, their discussions and make the best choice you can.
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