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I've been caring for my 97-year-old aunt for about four years. She has heart failure, scoliosis, glaucoma, and is legally blind. She's now bed bound as well. She's under a doctor's care but has requested, through Molst forms, a DNR, and advanced directives prepped by her attorney that she not receive any medical intervention including doctor visits or hospitalization. I understand completely why she feels that way and respect her choices. Recently, she's had symptoms that may point to some type of cancer - nothing visually obvious, just internal symptoms that we can't seem to treat. She doesn't want an exam, and wants to let nature take its course. I know on an intellectual level that it's the right thing to do, but why is every part of me wanting to "fix" this? I was caregiver, to varying degrees, to both my parents and my brother, until they passed away. My aunt and I are very close and the pain I feel watching her decline is insanely bad. She's not in pain, she's relaxed, has been asking me about my plans after she's gone, is very much at peace with this whole thing so I keep my tears to myself. And honestly, when she does pass, I'll be joyful for her that she's no longer trapped in a body she can't really enjoy any more. So why do I feel this desperate need to find out exactly what she has, if anything, and fix it? Don't get me wrong, I won't go against her wishes. Just don't know what to do with all the emotion and fear I feel right now. Anyone else been through this? Thank you.

You want to be sure that you have given every possible attention to your aunt's care.

In our times, we have got used to the idea that our bodies can be fixed, that it is our duty to find out what's wrong and follow medical instructions to put it right.

It must be very hard to silence that little voice nagging you that it's wonderful what modern medicine can do these days. So what kind of irresponsible person doesn't even check..?!

Not irresponsible at all. Sensible, mindful of your aunt's quality of life, and respectful of her well-expressed wishes.

You are also dreading the loss of your aunt. That's because you love her and you will miss her. I think perhaps the only thing you can do about that is not tell her how much you'll miss her, but show her how much you appreciate her while she's still here to return the compliment.
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Reply to Countrymouse
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Your feelings are completely normal so don't beat yourself up, because you are doing the right thing by not acting on them. In this country, we have been socialized to prolong life and prevent death for as long as possible. This is one reason you feel this way. The other is because you love your aunt and, on some level, don't want to lose her.
Try to view death as a natural part of life and try doing a life review with your aunt to realize what a long and adventurous life she has had. This will help you both to remember that at 97, she has had a full and rich life. And I'm guessing an amazing family judging by the love and respect her niece shows!!
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Reply to katydid1
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Do not said "goodbye," but "see you later in Heaven." God bless you!
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Reply to Llamalover47
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Contact Hospice.
They will help her and you through this difficult time.
They will provide comfort care, support as well as supplies and equipment.
She will have a visit by a Nurse once a week, a CNA a few times a week. You will get the services of a Social Worker, Chaplain if you wish, music therapy as well as other therapies if you so wish.
I can not begin to express how helpful Hospice was for me when I was caring for my Husband.
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Reply to Grandma1954
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Baylaurel
Have you read the book “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande? If not, I highly recommend you pick up a copy. It’s a great book that might help you through this difficult passage of life.
There are some great questions for you to discuss with your aunt that will help both of you prepare for the future and might help you accept her decisions.
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Reply to 97yroldmom
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anonymous864133 Dec 2, 2018
Thank you! I'll look for it online.
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Share your heart with her. That she is at peace, I believe she will be able to help you get there as well.

You are an amazing woman and your family has been blessed to have you. May you be blessed exceeding abundantly for all you do.
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Reply to Isthisrealyreal
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anonymous864133 Dec 2, 2018
Thank you so much. It's been a blessing for me to care for her too.
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My stepdad just died. He had metastasized cancer. We do not know what type. There was no point for us to know, other than to perhaps have a timeline. A week ago we were told he would be gone by Christmas, he died Monday evening.

He too had an Advanced Directive and only had treatment for pain once we had a diagnosis. So I can understand you concerns completely. We knew stepdad was in pain and getting pain relief, there was no other intervention.

Perhaps talk to your Aunt about how you are feeling. Let her address your concerns. Tell her you are afraid that she may be in great pain as her death nears and that you do not think you can cope with it. Perhaps she has a plan for that too.
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Reply to Tothill
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anonymous864133 Dec 2, 2018
I'm sorry for your loss. I know too well the mixture of grief, and release for him that you must be feeling. Went thru the same with my Mom. My aunt is alert and we're able to talk openly about anything so I think I will broach it with her. Thank you.
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The woman is 97. She is ready to die. Just be there for her. I believe people know when their time is coming. Let her go peacefully.
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