How do I respond when my mother says, "I just want to die."?

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For the past 3-4 months my 93 year old mother (with stage 5-6 dementia), says that she wishes she was dead every time we visit, often, many times during the visit. I have answered, "God will take you when He's ready for you." I asked what I could do for her to help her not think this way. She can't think of anything to make her want to remain living. She eats and sleeps well and has no medical problems. She's lived alone for the past 30 years before the dementia, so is not very social with the other residents.
She's aware that her memory is gone, that she can't figure things out anymore and that she's confused at times. I've asked the staff at the memory care facility if she tells them she wants to die and the nurse said no. I asked the nurse to get in touch with the doctor to ask about anti-depressants but, knowing how poorly very elderly people metabolize medicines, I'm not sure that would be the best answer either. She was always a drama queen in her adult life and bordering hypochondriac.
Is she fishing for more attention from my husband and me or is she just expressing her real opinion to me, something she wouldn't say to the caregivers.
I've tried diversion (good for about 5 minutes) and explaining the benefits of living (waste of breath). What's the best way to respond?

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Allow her to have her feelings. They're valid.

It's in our nature, when someone expresses a desire to die, to say something like, "Oh, you don't mean that!" Or "There are so many people who are worse off than you." Or even, "Mom, that upsets me when you say that. Can we please talk about something else?"

Listen to what she has to say. Just listen. Let her express her feelings without judgement or condemnation or expressing how uncomfortable her feelings make you. Ask her why she wants to die. "Mom, can you share with me why you feel that way?"

She's trying to be heard. So make sure she is.
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It is a sad thing to hear for a child. As a professional, clients tell me this all of the time. I validate their feelings, let them talk about their past and why they are done with this life on earth. Understand they know their quality of life has changed, and perhaps your mom just wants to talk about her beliefs. I agree with your medication assessment. Acknowledge and accept, but don't beat yourself up trying to find an answer or cure. There is no cure for end of life. Grief counseling might help for you. You are already grieving the mom you used to know, although she is still here. We call these non-death losses.Take care of yourself, 68% of caregivers (including children) die before the person they are caring for!
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Understand how she feels. Especially if she's aware of her dementia, it is absolutely a helpless feeling to recognize she can't do "basic" things that she once did every day and frustrating to forget things that just happened, or that were a huge part of your life (or to even remember something so realistically but that didn't even happen, then have people tell you so). Dementia is very scary for the patient. At its worst, it's like living in the void of the unknown. That's why depression is understandably a very common thing among dementia patients.

Take her to a neurologist, preferably one that might have more experience with dementia and Alzheimers. With the condition, different anti-depressant medications can possibly make her symptoms even worse. I just went through this with my mom who is still in the early stages. We've finally got her on meds, and I've seen a world of difference.

Also don't forget to take care of yourself. As someone who just went through this with their parent, I understand that it can be so painful to hear your loved one say something like they wish for death. You try to do so much for them, and it's still not enough in their eyes. Take some time to step back and realize that it's the condition and depression at work here, not any failure on your part. Try your best to handle any guilt you might feel and discuss your emotions with people you trust or with a doctor. You can't help someone when you yourself are drowning.

Wish you the best.
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"We are going to miss you when you are gone." This is what I tell my 97 year old aunt. She laughs and we move on. "See you next week." "I may not be here." "Where will you be?" "You know where the people go!" she laughs " I will miss you if you are not here."
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I used to tell my uncle that God wasn't ready for him yet but when his time came, i promised to let him know. The day the hospuce nurses told me that it may be soon and I should let the family know i very quietly told him that God was ready for him and it was ok for him to go and he died very peacefully a few hours later. I think he was so afraid to die that dying was all he could think about. I think hugs and kisses are a good choice when are love ones say they want to die.
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My Mother-in-law is 96 with good memory-can still walk with walker-fairly good health and she says "I do not know why I am still here, I'm ready to go" I respond to her by saying at my age I cannot understand that statement but maybe when I am 96 I might feel the same way knowing I am on the very downhill of life. She is in the same facility as her daughter, my wife, who has Alzheimer's but she is in the Assisted Living area and my wife in Memory Care. I tell her I need her help in taking care of her daughter by visiting her as often as she can. I am trying to give her some purpose but also acknowledge her feelings. I do visit both everyday.
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Exactly how you responded. She has every right not to want to live. Who would with dementia? Just listen, and the good Lord will take her when He wants. Anti-depressants have too many side effects, she could fall and the results would be more agony. Just leave her be. God love her for living so long!
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Thanks to everyone for your input. It's all helpful.
I think it's helpful for you to know the situation and I'm at fault for not explaining it. Mom has Stage 5-6 Alzheimer's and has lived in a memory facility for the past 9 months. She cannot recall most things, (previous husbands, siblings and even who I am at times), so trying to rekindle old memories is pretty much impossible. I've done that and she "zones out".
I'm an only child. Hubby and I can only visit once a week due to work schedules. We try to take her out to eat and a break from the monotony of the care facility. I have to order for her.
My mom was raised by very stoic, old country Swedish parents, so she is the opposite of a "touchy-feely" person. It actually agitates her to be touched and you can feel her tense up. So much for hugs, kisses and rubs. (Never had that as a kid, either, although I love it).
I will ask the geriatrician connected with the facility if he thinks it would be a good idea to prescribe antidepressants but I'm hesitant to further alter her already compromised mental state. Medication titration and side effects can be tricky in the very old.
She is able to walk with a cane but needs to be strongly encouraged to get out of bed. Previously she lived alone for 30 years so she's not very social. In her younger years she never had any girlfriends (I'd die without mine!) much preferring to be the center of attention with men. To this day, she prefers talking to my husband over me.
I will try to change my response to her "I just want to die", and attempt to get more response from her, instead of shutting down the conversation. I see now how my "when God's ready for you" response discourages further conversation.
Since she is aware that she is failing (in memory only-her body is as healthy as a horse) I would assume that she's disgusted with her plight and limitations and may not see a future. She'd be correct.
What a lousy situation for everyone. I hope the end for her would be sooner than later, for both our sakes. I can never make her situation any better and her disease will only get worse.
I know there is a reason for everything in life. What does God want us to learn from this? That we are not invincible?
Compassion? Patience? Empathy? I've been told all of life's difficulties are allowed so we have a need for God. We cling to Him and He helps us with our troubles. Some of us just hang on by a thread. Ask then expect to receive help (maybe not in the way you thought).
I hope I do not suffer the same fate as my mother so I don't have to put my son through this.
It is too bad that we aren't mentally and physically healthy up until our last breath.
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Go for the meds, at least she will be more accepting of God's timetable.
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Thanks, lealonnie, for saying what I was thinking.

Nasmir,
Along with many others on this board, I am having a difficult time navigating through my mother's dementia. My mom and I were never "best friends". However, it will not be a "relief" for ME when she dies. SHE will be relieved of the agony of knowing her mind is only partially functioning, not being able to think straight, make decisions, remember people and events, take care of her own hygiene, making repetitive statements and being aware of her own confusion. I am sorry she has this disease and wish things would have been different for her.

I think I hit a nerve with you when I made the statement that my mom can manipulate a situation, even with dementia. She did that during my childhood too, nothing new.
My husband is Mexican. In his culture, all moms are on the same level as the Virgin Mary. In the beginning, he was telling me that I should go along with whatever my mom said and to move her into our house UNTIL he saw how she treated me. Even he had to concede that she could be pretty tough but he wouldn't come out and say it, like I did. For him, it's a respect thing. I, on the other hand, had lived with her for 18 years and can call a spade a spade. That doesn't mean I don't care about her or that I'll be relieved when she's dead. I pray for her daily. But, if you think I like hearing that she likes my husband better, that she doesn't like me at all and that she thinks I'm mean to her...I don't. It hurts me because I never "did it right" as a kid either.
I've done everything I can to make her comfortable, safe and happy, but, unfortunately, in her state of mind, there is no "happy".
I guess I don't conform to your image of a "good" daughter but my mom never conformed to the image of a "good" mother. I'm glad your childhood and relationship with your mom was a good one. Not all of us have that.
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