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Ever since her stroke 2 years ago at 91, my grandma has been having health issues that the family always tells me are “the big one” and “this is it” and “you’d better go see her now because it doesn’t look good.”


These issues are usually resolved by the time I get there, often the same day or next day. She rallies every single time. I'm afraid maybe my panic reflex is actually gone now. Is this normal, to feel like “yeah yeah whatever” when I hear another “it’s not good” report?


I mean, her whole existence is “not good.” Active bowel cancer, pneumonia, anemia, anxiety, bedridden, incontinent, stroke stuff affecting her mentally... and yet, I have the feeling she’ll make it to 97 or more. Up and down the whole way.


Another thing... her caregiver and my uncle both talk to me in such vague protective delicate language about how serious her condition is and how she could go any minute. I think it wouldn’t be so bad if she did pass, like now, or maybe in 10 minutes. She’s loved and well cared for and had more than she ever needed. Why are we spinning things out?


I wish I just knew what would happen to her and when. A timeline would be good!! No more up and downs please....


I feel so cold hearted. It feels like I’ve already let her go in my heart, when she could still be with us for years to come. How can this be?

My Mom has been in and out of the hospital for the past 40 years and I feel so bad but I have started to become numb about it. After her husband passed 7 years ago each hospital visit turned into her getting worse and worse in her daily life. She is now in hospice care and can go up and down in one day. 

I flew home to take care of her and she expects me to stay there, leave my husband and take care of her indefinitely. I finally left after a month of being away from my husband and she makes me feel guilty for leaving her at her time of need.  

I told her I have watched you like this for 40 years. You may last a week or another 15 years. I am in a hard place Mom, I can't just abandon my marriage but I want to help you too. 

She does need 24 hour care now since she can barely do anything for herself. I feel so bad for not having compassion on this woman who was my best friend for many years. Yet all she does is bosses me around, get this, do that and oh how I am doing it all wrong and gets angry with me for missing my husband. She expects me back in a week.

It emotional drainage that I think comes upon us. Never having a sense a freedom, always expecting to drop everything to attend to their needs. Feeling the pressure of being a bad person because YOU are not there. The guilt is real and then more guilt for not caring like you know you should because they just wear you out.
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Reply to smilingtulip
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Hazel, that reply about having to pass on your uncle's message so that your father's altered his travel plans?

No, you don't have to pass on the message, not at all; and you certainly don't have to endorse the message. If uncle wants to tell your father that this is definitely it, uncle can do the telling. And you can reserve judgement.

Boy! - just realised how silly I'm going to look if this actually IS "it"! Whatever happens, I hope that your grandmother is comfortable and has peace of mind.
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I am in the same situation. My 89 yo mother was diagnosed with stage 3b lung cancer and the tumor was pushing on her bronchial tubes. She went into the hospital the week she was supposed to start her palliative radiation treatments. We thought that was it. After the radiation was over, she got better. She can do her own laundry and fix her own food now. She is now off of oxygen, but still on hospice.

She has started having a lot of afib incidents in the last 2 weeks. Multiple daily events. She has much better lung capacity as well. She is demanding, OCD and passive aggressive. We (me, brother and sister) are exhausted. I am her primary caregiver. Some days are great others, I think it is towards the end. I am conflicted. She will probably still be around in two years. LOL

Tomorrow is her CT scan to see how the radiation did and if it has spread.
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Hazelthebunny Mar 29, 2019
i understand feeling conflicted: we want 2 things at the same time. My best wishes to you, Lori!
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The ups and downs happened with my grandmother too. It would seem to be the end, but when my sister would come from across the country to say goodbye to her, Grandma would bounce back into almost full recovery. I think somewhere in her she thought we needed her and kept reviving herself for us. My sister had come so often that when Grandma finally did die in her sleep one morning, my sister didn't even think she should be at the funeral, perhaps afraid Grandma would bounce out of the casket.
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Hazelthebunny Mar 29, 2019
this made me laugh out loud!! I'm very sorry about that. Your sister may have been right :-)
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I think we do become desensitized in a sense in order to survive. It happens. We care deep down but it's hard and we can't invest all of our energy into their lives.
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I am suffering this horrible roller coaster now. My mother is 94 and has been in nursing home for two years. She has severe dementia, speaks only an occasional word, doesn't recognize family members and is bed-ridden (never walked after hip fracture 2 years ago).

Suddenly three weeks ago my sister texted that Mom was being taken to Emergency Room. She was in a coma and unresponsive. The nursing home staff THEN told my sister Mom hadn't eaten for several days. ER discovered she had a UTI which had progressed to septic shock (cause of coma). She had also suffered another myocardial infarction (had one on New Year's Day). She had acute kidney failure due to the shock. She was in ICU for 5 days and finally started opening her eyes but looked like "nobody home." Her doctor told my sister that Mom would not survive. Sent her back to nursing home for "comfort care" only. Sepsis-associated encephalopathy had killed the brain cells she had left.

My sister is her healthcare proxy and makes all decisions about her care. At first, she was in denial and sent glowing reports about Mom "doing great", "eating" and "smiling". She sent me photos on cellphone that contradicted everything my sister said. Mom looked gravely ill. She was unable to turn over in bed. Her face was frozen in a contorted grimace. Four days later my sister called crying uncontrollably. She found Mom with a panicked look on face and my sister discovered Mom had a bunch of food pocketed in her cheek and was choking. The staff then told my sister that Mom was not able to swallow since back from hospital. They were trying to feed her "baby food" with spoon but Mom would push food into cheek like a squirrel because not able to swallow. We (my sisters and I) decided that feeding Mom was making her choke and very uncomfortable so asked nursing home to quit forcing her to eat. She still had an IV from hospital because not able to drink water. They wanted to start tube feeding but Advanced Directive was clear about no tube feeding. We asked them to remove IV because artificial hydration was also not to be used. My sister had to sign papers to get IV removed and forbid tube feeding. Nursing home continued to force spoon feeding stating they "were not allowed to deny food." Also, forcing her to swallow blood pressure pills. Why on earth does a dying person need to take pills for hypertension?

It has been three weeks now and Mom still lingers. She sleeps most of the time. Doesn't appear to be in distress. She is alert one day, eyes open and responds to soft touch. Then deep asleep the next. She has been without meaningful food 18 days and without IV five days. She is down to 70 pounds but still lingers. Then yesterday my sister joyfully texted that Mom was eating ice cream. My heart sank. They are just prolonging her life which is of no quality whatsoever. Why would they feed her at all? Now we restart the vigil.

I live 1200 miles away and not able to go to her beside for indefinite period of time. I cannot trust the reports I get from sister as they are so inconceivable. She reported one day that Mom recognized her and called her by name (not for two years). That she took in a photo album and Mom was enjoying viewing it with her.

Mom's personal MD was shocked to learn Mom was still alive LAST WEEK. How long can this continue?

I am thinking I will make a selfie video to tell Mom I love her but can't stop crying. This is a horrific experience. My sister vasilates from optimism that Mom is better to "another bad day." Mom will go when she is ready. I have no other explanation. I sent her a small CD boombox with 2 soothing music CDs. Music is suppoed to be comforting to the dying. But my sister doesn't take it to Mom. Says it would interfere with roommate's TV watching. Growing tension among us. The stress is overwhelming us all. This is not the dignified death we imagined for Mom.
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reliefsearch2 Mar 26, 2019
Not Easy, my heart goes out to you. I know how hard the roller coaster is in the last few days. Your mother is holding on because on a subconscious level has "unfinished business" This is what my experience has been when people are actively dying. We are not to judge this. Eventually her body will give out physically. In the meantime, hugs to you and your family. She will be greeted with love and devotion on the other side :)
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I understand how you feel. For the past 10+ years my father thinks he is at death's door at least once a week. He runs to the ER almost as often. I am total desensitized to the entire process. I am sure one of these days he will be right but I can't jump for the 1465 trial runs for that event.
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I'm in my early 40s and dealing with the same exact issue. My grandmother is 91, has a severely enlarged heart, a host of other health issues related to being elderly and sedentary, but she continues hanging on. She survived pneumonia which is an incredible feat for a person her age, and has been in and out of the hospital almost monthly. It's extremely nerve wracking to be told every other month "this is it" and getting stern calls from my father about immediately jumping on a plane to go see her. Don't get me wrong, I love and care for her (just as I'm sure you do your Grandma) but I have a job and responsibilities plus the expense of all these last-minute emergency trips is starting to really add up!

My best advice is to simply offer your heartfelt consolation and send her your love but you simply can't run to see her every time they say her time has come. I just had to have the same conversation last night. My grandmother called everyone and said her goodbyes. Turns out she's just got a UTI and is dehydrated...

Best of luck to you!

P.S. Personally, I feel it's morbid and in bad taste to just go and sit around waiting for the person to pass. Sure, if you're the person's primary caregiver, it's not something you can control. As far as everyone else in the family, even if they have the financial means and ability to hang around, I just wouldn't feel comfortable doing so, myself.
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Hazelthebunny Mar 29, 2019
my dad is presently on a plane coming back for 10 days from his annual 3 months in France, because "this is it..."

This is most definitely not it. I feel guilty for passing the message from uncle and caregiver along and spoiling his holiday, but at the same time I can't keep it from him, can I?
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Don't worry. When you do really lose your grandmother, and even more as time passes and you remember earlier years more clearly than you do this horrible phase in her life, you will miss her just as much as the tenderest soul could do.

I sympathise with your feelings about the way your uncle and the caregiver talk to you about this rollercoaster. I remember my aunt telling me that I mustn't think Uncle Henry's dying was so terrible, he was very old and tired and missed my auntie; and all I could think (didn't say!) was "er, yes, obviously?" But, she and I'm sure your family and friends too are partly comforting themselves and partly aiming to prepare you - whether you need them to or not.

Knowing whether you really do need to rush to her bedside this time is simply impossible. No experienced hospice nurse, no palliative care specialist, will ever agree to give the family that kind of prediction. So. So as not to have your nerves racked constantly, the thing to do is plan for yourself a schedule of visits, and stick to it unless something *really* exceptional happens.

When you visit your grandmother, check off that you have said what you need to say and spent time with her that you want to spend. If that happens to be just when she passes, or a few days before, or three weeks before, will not matter. You don't have to spell it out to your uncle, but it is not mandatory for you to be there when your grandmother passes away. You can let what happens, happen.
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Hazelthebunny Mar 29, 2019
yes you're right - as long as I visit on a schedule I don't need to feel guilty if she does pass in between visits.

I know it's impossible to get a timeline. It just seems like an interminable sort or purgatory.

Will I really miss her, do you think, after she passes? I already have missed her the way she was, and awful as it seems i feel like I've let that Grandma go already. Will it feel different when she really does die? Or will it just feel like turning a page...
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My brother recently passed and his friends kept making those comments. After seeing death 3 times now, I did not believe them. Watch for signs of not eating followed by not drinking. When fluids are not taken well, expect death in about a week. As for those who feel the need that they have to be present, gently remind them that maybe the best visit with their loved ones were the days you could still communicate with them. The unpleasant visits with death are the ones we need to forget first. The pleasant ones are kept for the best memories
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