My mom cried and cried and said she is afraid to die. How can I tell her not to be afraid?

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My mom is 89 and has end stage congestive heart failure. I took her from rehabilitate and skilled nursing home to live with me. The first week being home I had to take her to ER for low oxygen. She came home after a week on hospice care.
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Two weeks later, I took her back to ER for a swollen arm. Doctors wanted to be sure of no clots before sending her home that night. Two weeks later my granddaughter called 911 because my mom was short of breath. Its been a week and my mom is gaining fluid each day with very little urine output. She has this cough that is fluid in her lungs. Today they told my mom she will die. My mom cried and cried and said she is afraid to die. How can I tell her not to be afraid? My heart aches. Thank you. Patsy

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Patster, I am sorry your mom is dying. I am also sorry that someone at the hospital told her she was going to die. Depending how and who told her it can be the wrong approach and add to the worry a patient goes through when they are processing this realization for themselves. I have found or seen that most people who are terminal are very aware they are dying long before they do and usually need no "wake up call." It could be a fear of the pain of dying rather than dying itself or how other family members are going to deal with it all that worries a patient the most.

My cousin's dear wife passed away last year from cancer and she even knew it had spread to her brain before it was diagnosed, yet some doctor thought he had to educate her that she was dying and just needed to accept it, which upset her horribly. Her husband told the medical staff at the hospital that doctor was never to see her again and he had better be glad he had not been there when she was told. Another doctor told him and his wife that he was sorry she had been upset and that she did not need to give up hope, because no one knows what might happen. As I told my cousin, "she already knows she is dying and the doctor did not need to say a thing." She lived a couple months longer but she dealt with it and I believed reached peace before going. From my own experience when someone believes they need to tell a patient and the family the patient is dying they are clueless how it affects the patient and the family who usually are already dealing with it in their own way and actually puts unnecessary strain on them.

I would talk with your mother about what she is feeling and thinking. Ask her what she would like to feel better or more comfortable. Does she have any wishes about what she might like to do or someone she would like to see. Reassure her that you are there for her and that you will do what you can to make her comfortable. The fear of pain was the worst thing for my mom because she had watched and cared for her own mother who died from cancer and had suffered quite a bit. Most of the reasons your mother has been taken to the hospital seem like comfort issues that hospice should be able to deal with depending how good they are about the critical issues that normally arise. I am surprised they had not given her an oxygen concentrater and bottled O2 for the home since she has CHF from the beginning with a comfort pack of medications to use for these times. Did your mom agree to hospice or was it pretty much "pushed" on her at the hospital? What did she want? Is she ready to be on hospice?

I like kristinn's suggestion. I always said that my mother was not dead until she took her final breath. A patient may be terminal, but they are not actively dying until they are actively dying. You do not have to be on a death watch the whole time. I got her out as much as possible and found ways to do it even when we had to use a hoyer lift and a reclining wheelchair.

I wish you and your mom much peace during this time.
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Patsy, I don't know the answer to this. My dad is afraid to die also. Is there a pastor that can come in and talk to your mom? She needs to reassured that God is forgiving and offers her a better place. She also needs to know that her passing will be peaceful and that you will be with her, holding her hand, and not allow her to suffer. What more can you do? My Aunt was like you mom, so afraid of dying. Nevertheless it happened. Just give her as much love and comfort as you can. Be there and make sure she is on a morphine drip to reduce anxiety from the lack of breathing ability. Just give her as much comfort as possible. Be there.
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Hospice will help. Just tell them what you told us. The hard part is accepting that there is no "get out of jail" card to play here. Being awake to what is happening in this moment is the truest tribute to life -- hers, yours, just Life -- you can have. Sending you love and light...
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My heart aches for you Patsy. Since your mother is on Hospice, turn to them for guidance. Their experience can be very valuable at this time. I'm sure seeing your mother cry and cry was very hard on you, but it seems like an honest and appropriate response to me. I hope she does not spend all the time she has left crying, but I get tears in my eyes just thinking of her situation. She surely is entitled to cry.

If she is afraid of the process of dying, the pain and anguish, Hospice can assure her and comfort her on that (or help you do the comforting). You can assure her she will not be alone, and she will live on in your heart.

As for being afraid of death itself or life after death, what she will find comforting depends on her beliefs. If her beliefs are bleak and you have a more positive outlook you could talk to her about what you believe -- not in the sense of trying to convert her but in trying to give her a more hopeful possibility to think about.
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Hi Patsy.. I can feel your pain .. I'm sooooo sorry.. My Dad lives with me and going through the same thing... COPD.. And skin cancer on the LT Leg.. he is 81... It is so hard.. All we can do is try to comfort them...It kills me to see my Dad cry .. But I try to say something funny ...And talk about something else.. Or good times.. It seems to help.. Hang in there ...I think caregivers are angles..
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Copddaughter and Littltonway: When we retired my parents moved next door to us and that was in 2005. My mom passed in 2008. My comment is mostly about my dad, who had a major stroke in July 2011. He was in rehab for 3 months and then came home to live under our roof. He could no longer walk without assistance, meaning he could not manage the use of a walker on his own. He had to be led and balanced. He was incontinent. He could not speak in sentences. only yes and no and a few other words. He had difficulties swallowing and could only drink thickened liquids. About the only thing he could do for himself was brush his teeth, while I kept him steady by the bathroom sink, and lift a spoon to his mouth.

My dad took up residence in our MBR. He had a very comfortable hospital bed with an air adjusting mattress. He had his recliner, his wide screen TV with great closed caption features that he benefited from and he had our company and the best of care.

My dad was a very independent person and an avid reader. He loved his 3 to 4 daily walks each day and visiting with neighbors on our street. Even though his life was nothing compared to what it had been before and even though he missed my mom every minute since her passing, he was not ready to die.

He accepted that my life would be 24/7 centered around his care and that I was always watching him, when not with him, from every room in the house via a video monitor. He accepted that I would be taking him to the toilet and cleaning him up after every BM. He accepted that a shower was always with assistance and there was little he could do to help with the process.

He loved when I would call my sibs during his awake times and he enjoyed listening to their voices even though his responses were minimal. He could always laugh at a joke or something his children said on the phone to him. He loved most things I cooked for him, but would let me know when he didn't. He loved our dogs by his side and he enjoyed feeding them treats from his plate.

My dad also had a stroke in 2002 that impacted his concentration (couldn't always hold the thread of the 5 to 10 books he liked to read at one time) and impacted his vision so he could no longer drive or carry on his handyman work anymore. That was also a huge loss for him.

Never, in my wildest dreams, nor those of my brothers and sister, did I ever think my dad would want to live under the circumstances he was dealt after his 2011 stroke. But he just kept going. At one point, when he was living with us I asked him, "Dad, do you want to go on this way or do you want to go to mom." I talked to him about his many medications and my question was, do you want to continue them or discontinue. "I need to know what your wishes are so I can honor them." So we broke it down into yes and no answers. I was very alert in his mind and could understand everything I was saying. That was never an issue. His answers were, "No, I don't want to discontinue my medications and no I am not ready to die." So we continued.

About 2 months ago, we made the decision to place my dad in nursing home care. We were exhausted and had given 8 years to the care of my parents. We were sleep deprived and starting to have our own health issues.

It broke my heart to place my dad, but in many other ways it felt needed, not for him, but for us. In spite of the fact that my son was the chef at this facility and his girlfriend was the charge nurse on my dad's floor, my dad did not do well. He missed being with me and the comfort of being cared for in our home.

I visited him almost daily, but when we left to be at our Granddaughter's wedding he stopped eating and had lost 14 pounds in the week I was gone. He had his 90th birthday this month, September, on the 19th. He was failing and my brothers came from out of state to be with him some 2 weeks before his passing. He was so happy to have them with him.

My dad passed away on the 24th of September. I was by his side and holding his hand during the 36 hours of unconsciousness that he went through and I was there when he took his last breath.

Maybe 5 days before his passing, I asked him if he was looking forward to seeing Mom and he said, "yes." I asked if he was looking forward to see a favorite dog of his and he just smiled. I asked him if he was afraid, and he laughed and said, "No."

I think before he was afraid, but he wasn't anymore. And I think if he had continued to live with us, he would have not lost so much ground.

My mother, on the other hand, made a decision that she wanted all medications stopped and she wanted to go to God. She was not afraid of dying, more over she just didn't want to go on living when there was so little to live for. My parents had been married for over 60 years, but they took a different path to the issue of passing, even though they both held religious views.

My post is not meant to give you answers, it's only to say that some are ready and some are not, until they are. My heart goes out to you both.

Sending you love and white light. Cattails
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Dear patster, don't know if this would or could be something that might help you or not. There is a show called "I Survived . . . and Beyond" It is REAL people who have actually died, some for as long as 1 1/2 minutes. They tell of their dying experiences, and how amazingly beautiful they were. Each claims that they are no longer afraid of dying, and in fact are looking forward to when their right time to go comes! As they were being revived from this side, and felt themselves pulled back here, not one of them wanted to come back!!!! The other side (heaven?) was so beautiful, and each person describes a feeling of being embraced by the purest brightes love that we could never imagine on this side. I don't know if maybe you and your mom might be able to watch it together? This is just an idea, and I know when I watch it I feel really wonderful knowing my dad will soon be experiencing this complete joy and peace. I am in R.I., and get cable but the show is on the "Biography" channel if you get it. If you do watch it make sure you watch the "I Survived...and Beyond", not the "I Survived"
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My Mom died of congested heart failure. She was a saint of God, lived every breath to be like Jesus.She lived next door to me and would call me to give her a reality check. Even with her faith she neede a strong arm to lean on when the pain was too great. I would pray with her and sing Hymns and she would fall asleep peacfully. We cried together many a night. We don't need to understand , just hold the Masters hand!" That kept us going
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they are not gone til they are gone.some are in and out of sleep.
if it was me,when i wake from being in a sleep i would like it to be nice with freinds and relatives,trees and sun.icecream too of course.not the cheap stuff!
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Maybe dont talk about it at all.. not like denial. Get a book and start having her tell you about her life. Childhood memories, boyfriends, school. she is the same age as my mom. They can blow you away with stories of no plumbing, refrigerators, electricity, burning coal then having to scrub the black off the walls. Just keep redirecting and ask her about best memories and things she wants you to remember and share. Sometimes they come to their own concluusions of saying I have had a pretty good life and I have seen it all. Don't just be her daughter be her bestfriend, love her, support her no matter what frame she is in, happy or sad. My heart goes out to you and I hope I'm as strong as you are when that time comes for me.
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