How can you tell if you're too close/involved to recognize the true extent of a loved one's decline?

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My sister and I go round and round. She's barely here and if Mom is not talking clearly when shes here she thinks she's dying. She's been to the hospital a couple times recently because of CO2 and more confusion than usual. (She's not on any meds for the confusion.) A neurologist just prescribed a patch...We are hoping it really helps. She might go to a rehab in the hospital for a couple days to get used to the cpap machine at night (find the right medication for that and some extra physical therapy). But she walks ok when she wants to. She walked into my bedroom the day she went to the hospital w/o anything, yelling for me. (She thought I was locked in.)


I guess my question is am I too close? Am I missing her descent? I know she's not as she was and small things are getting worse. But I see it as a normal gradual descent for dementia. My sister is joining the temple in case we need to bury her and talking to the local funeral home. Shes been freaked out every time this happens for like 3 years and always says Mom only has a couple months left.


The thing is I know I'm too close... How do I tell who's right, or is it somewhere in the middle?

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baskethill, I tended to be more like your sister with my own Mom. My Dad died when I was only four and I became extremely attached to my Mom. Some would say in an unhealthy way but I never saw it like that.

My siblings never participated much in my Mom's day to day life and when my Mom's health started to fail I only had my own perspective to guide me. I spent my whole life dreading my Mom's death and when she actually started getting old and feeble I think it would have helped to have another set of eyes to put it all into perspective for me.
You know how when you haven't seen someone for a long time and when you do you are shocked at how much they have changed. So in my case being so close to the situation I didn't recognize how much Mom had deteriorated until she had to be hospitalized. All my siblings looked at me as if I'd kept something from them but let's be honest, nothing was stopping them from being in her life except their own selfishness.

So, I think if you really want to know how your Mother is doing, you kind of have to remove the emotion and try and see her from another's perspective. Maybe, it's good your sister is like she is and you are like you are. You kind of balance each other out.
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Reply to Gershun
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My Aunt was like your sister. Every time Dad's mother (my grandmother) would get sick, my aunt would go nuts, crying & sobbing that grandma was going to die. I remember when I was in high school and Grandma got really sick. My Aunt "just KNEW that Mom (my Grandma) was going to die that night". But she lived for another 20 years to the age of 94. My Dad just let his Sister vent her feelings because he knew that no matter what he said, she was going to sob and cry and be upset until their Mom got well and went home (again). Grandma died after she fell, broke her ribs and damaged her lungs. Dad's sister could see how severely their Mom had been injured and she knew that Grandma was going to die soon. This time my Aunt cried softly.

Have you talked with your Mom's doctors about her condition? What have they said about your Mom's possibility of dying within the next few months?
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Reply to DeeAnna
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Basket, even if you are missing "the signs" what does it matter? As long as you continue to care for her day 2 day needs, keep her seeing Dr's, dispense meds that's all you can do.

Predicting her death is nothing more then anxiety causing. Who really knows.

 Preparing for her death is the responsible thing to do. Let sissy have at it. It makes her feel good. Fine. But again, what would you do differently if you are missing the signs? Stress out?

We are all dying anyway, but only God knows the time and day. 

Relax and continue to do what you can do for her. That's all.

Keep up the good work! You're a special daughter!
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Reply to Pepsee
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Baskethill. What does it really matter. I too, was with my mom to much. Every quirky thing she did I thought it was just my mom. She’s been gone 2 months now, and I can’t believe how much I miss both my parents. I don’t want them back to care for them (no way), but just to talk and give them a hug. It’s playing out how it’s suppose to. Your role and your sisters are your own individual journey. Go with it. Your gonna look back and question everything anyway. Good luck to you. By the way, on my moms death certificate cause of death was senile dementia 5 yrs. Oh, did this hurt me. Because all in all that quirky little lady was my mom, everyday no matter what.
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Reply to Ihave1now
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I don't know. I think you will really know when it gets close. people can really hang in longer than youd expect. or they can go when you least expect. is that what you mean?

some people level off and then stay the same for awhile. then get better, then a little worse.

are you afraid you are missing the signs?
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Reply to wally003
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I believe someone mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Each person handles this journey differently, each in their own way. Outside of keeping the failing person as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, there really is no right way to handle things. Please don’t judge yourself, and try not to accept anyone else’s judgement. Even if you are “missing” small indications of further decline, remember that this journey is pretty much a one way street, even if the road winds a bit. The decline cannot really be repaired. You are doing the best you can for your mother and that is what matters. Wishing you peace and strength.
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Reply to MelissaPA2AZ
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I think its more like .. Well im in the day to day fight. I just have my head down and am doing what needs to be done. You take mild changes in stride and try to make things as liveable for both of you as possible. I dont have my sisters perspective of change or she mine. I know she over reacts ...but i probably under react sometimes. Shes a good foil for me ( however much she makes me apeshit crazy) . Shes just got me wondering if I cant see the forest for the trees being so close . Were both strong personalities but very different
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Reply to baskethill1
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the not knowing what to expect is very hard - plus everyone's(elderly) different

I think in some ways I've become a little detached - not in a mean way. but you just get numb.

since my moms in AL for 7 years ive seen so many old people pass away. its always sad tho don't get me wrong.

but im not full time caregiver :(

so if you think you under react - youre probably ok. I would hate (for myself) to always over react when it comes to my mom. sometimes I feel im ready for anything. :(

if my mom passed tomorrow I think im prepared for that, ill be sad of course. but at the same time, she been going downhill for awhile now.
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Reply to wally003
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Hi - this is my first time watching decline up close, and it really can be jarring! I think I’m more like you, I see it all as ‘normal’ and just keep an eye out for what Mom can and can’t do, and try to help her work around the various items, until there are too many for her to continue living alone. She’s 86 and losing physical and mental capacity quickly. Sadly, we don’t know how much loss of capability they’ll go through before they actually pass... I personally hope my mom gets to go before too much is taken away. In other words, *if only* loss of control would bring on end of life, but it sounds like it doesn’t work out that way for some people. Have you talked to your mom about Do Not Resucitate order and such; what matters to her and how she wants things to be done for her?

I agree, it sounds like you and your sister are a good complement.  Nothing wrong with getting arrangements set up.  A book recommended here, and I got a lot out of it, is Being Human by Atul Gawande.  It’s not about senior decline only, but enough so.  Good luck to you. 
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Reply to Zdarov
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You are right in your assessment. Your sister will always go off the depend thinking your Mom is on the way out. My children do the same. I just listen and smile inwardly and don't respond. If her assessment has been going on for 3 years and Mom is still around, you have your answer.
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Reply to tperri123
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