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My mom walked into my room at 4:30 this morning saying she felt like she just died/was going to die. She has had that feeling before, and I'm not sure if it's an anxiety attack; a bad dream; poor circulation or other medical condition like a sudden drop in blood pressure; or a premonition of sorts. I have heard that when a senior in a long term care facility is about to die they will have dreams or experiences about a few days before it happens? Any thoughts?

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Globetrotter, if your mother has a pulmonary doctor, ask about having a night study done. It's not painful; her SAT rates are monitored overnight then reviewed by her doctor to determine if she needs oxygen at night. That might be part of the issue, and it's a way to address it without going through the sleep apnea studies.
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Sunnygirl, that makes a lot of sense and ties in with mom's symptoms. She has terrible snoring - it often sounds like choking - and breathes through her mouth. Sometimes she stops breathing for a few seconds. I remember when I was a teenager, I went into mom's room one morning and thought she was dead, no breathing whatsoever for a few minutes, and she was always exceptionally pale and anemic. The other night she did say she had trouble breathing. I seem to recall vaguely that one doctor said she had sleep apnea, but I can't remember mom having a sleep study done at a lab. I remember having one done and the pain and discomfort from the electrodes were so traumatic I couldn't sleep the whole night, so they couldn't draw any conclusive results (lol). I ended up with severe scalp and head pain for months after. I believe I might have been alergic to the glue they used to stick the electrodes on my scalp, of course they vehemently denied that.

But back to mom, certainly lack of oxygen would generate symptoms and sympathetic nervous system response. That's why the one time I did take her to the emergency department at night, by the time she got seen to there was no observable pathology (except the dementia symptoms and a bit too high a dose of synthroid in her bloodstream). Having no thyroid must make it very difficult for the body to regulate itself on those synthetic hormones.

Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to bring that up the next time she goes to the doctor.
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I recently read how anxiety can disrupt the deep sleep we need to "recharge" our physical and emotional batteries, as well as contribute to physical illness. I was surprised that diabetes was one disease that could be hastened by inadequate sleep.

I've always thought that nightmares and dreams of harm or injury reflect something in real life that's fearful, threatening, unsettling, or generally negative. If a solution isn't found, or some means of addressing it, that anxiety remains. And I think it manifests itself in dreams/nightmares when we're so relaxed that our mental defenses are down.

From my own experience, those kinds of bizarre dreams and nightmares always occur early in the morning, perhaps after a good night's sleep. And typically they hark back to when my mother or sister were ill. A frequent one for years was that my sister was still alive but entering a terminal state from cancer, and she told me I wasn't taking good enough care of her so she was going to leave to live with someone else. That happened so often I knew it was a flashback to the times I wondered if I was making the right decisions or did everything I could for her, as well as the post-death self examination.
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A few months ago, I had some pretty scary events where I awoke suddenly in my sleep and felt like I was dying. It was bad enough that I saw my doctor. I ended up with a sleep study and I have Hypopnea, which is low oxygen levels during sleep. That's why I felt like I was dying in my sleep. I'm now on c-pap therapy and have no more episodes.

I"m not saying this is what your mom has, but it could be an explanation. Of course, it could be the dementia too. That can cause all sorts of image, beliefs and delusion.s

Since your mother has a dementia, they may not treat her for a sleep disorder, due to the nature of the disease and the difficulty of c-pap therapy for a dementia patient. Still, I thought I would offer this possibility.
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Hi Maggie, Jesse Belle and Gershan: thank you for your feedback. Maggie, you bring up a good point about interpretation of events based on our beliefs. Sometimes I can be somewhat superstitious which, combined with my religious beliefs make me interpret events through those filters. No doubt the death of my father in August has had a significant impact on mom, who keeps forgeting and needing to confirm that he is dead, and the loss is probably playing itself out in her dreams; she has always had a tendency towards very bad dreams.

Having said that, I am worried about her physical condition as well as the advancing dementia. She is always very weak and tired, has no thyroid, high blood pressure, only one kidney which at one point was identified as functioning below normal, severe carpal tunnel syndrome and in the past year or two, some kind of ciculation problem with her feet. Essentially, she hasn't been out of the apartment in years, has no stamina and gets quite winded and unable to stand up for any length of time before her back pains. She is 92, and although both she and her general practioner thinks her heart is in good condition, I beg to differ. So I do think, on some level, something is happening medically in the early hours of the morning. I encourage her to go to the hospital while she is having the symptoms but she refuses. Maybe it's just as well. Maybe, as you say Jessie Belle, her mind is preparing for that eventual reality. I know that dad, when he was in the nursing home, used to tell me he thought for sure he was going to die last night, although he lived for a few years after that. It reinforced my memory of a film I watched in one of my social work elective courses about end of life stages in a nursing home. The commentator said that it was not uncommon for terminally ill patients to have some kind of near death/out of body experience shortly before their death. But yes, Jesse Belle, I could not help but inwardly groan when mom came in my bedroom at 4:30 in the morning and wanted to get in my twin bed beside me (lol). I felt oddly like the parent of a young child who was scared and wanted to sleep with their parent/s.

On the other hand, is was your situation, Gershun, I dreamt I was dying on a few occasions, and there was nothing wrong with me physically. The worst nightmare I ever had was feeling like I was leaving my body and I was half awake and half asleep and in that kind of paralytic state and couldn't fully wake up. However, I was extremely exhausted and had a rather tramatic experience the evening before, so no doubt that had a lot to do with it. Occasionally I wake up and have the sensation that my heart and blood circulation was about to totally stop, but again I believe that was related to extreme fatigue.

Mom has no recollection of last night but she is very confused today, but then she usually is every day.

On the other hand, Gerhsun,
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I've had dreams like that and I'm 53 and in perfect health. I think dreams are just your subconscious thoughts coming out. So if someone is thinking about death then they would dream about it.
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There may be something to it -- like her mind is preparing her for death. Or sometimes a dream is just a dream.

I would have been miffed, though, if my mother woke me up at 4:30. Your mother must have been very frightened by the dream to wake you.
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We'll never know. What one thinks of these experiences depends on one's belief system. To me, it's something that's on her mind and, like other thoughts, her brain is processing it as it does other things we dream about.
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