Mother with cancer, depression and anxiety. She's refusing help. Should I seek legal action?


My mother (late 60s) was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in Mid July. Prior to this she had been having depression/anxiety issues. She had surgery in early August, and it went well, and she actually was given a fairly good prognosis. That is the good. The bad... Her depression/anxiety has spiraled out of control. The hospital recommended an aftercare facility. She refused, forcing my father to care for her. He is not able to do so. His health is also deteriorating and he is stressed and tired. She also refused home health care. She did not do any of the recommended post surgery care. She basically lies in her bedroom all day with a sheet over her head. My Dad was told by her oncologist - right after surgery - that he had to get her to a psychiatrist within two weeks. After about three weeks and me pushing him, he tried to make an appt, and couldn't get in until December. I talked to a friend in the health care field. She said my Dad needed to contact the oncologist and have her contact the psychiatrist's office and they would get her in right away. I told my Dad this, it was Labor Day weekend and he said he would call Tuesday. I called him Wednesday to follow up. He did not do it. He said it is Mom's decision the ball is in her court. He does not seem to understand that she is incapable of making decisions. My brother confronted him, and he said Dad doesn't want to make Mom mad so Dad is going to do whatever she wants - I feel for her to get the care she needs, he may need to risk getting her mad - if it saves her, it is worth it. I flew both of my sons home to see her - she barely got out of bed while they were there. My one son and I drove to see them last weekend (1.5 hours) and were going to stay overnight. She was in the middle of a melt down and we ended up going home - she took a depression drug and some OxyContin and was then out of it anyway. I didn't want my son to see her this way...we left. Medications are another concern. When we were there, there was probably about 30 prescription bottles on the counter. I saw no evidence of any list or chart indicating what was to be taken and when. My parents told us she was taking no pain medication. In my research Oxy is a powerful and addictive pain med, and shouldn't be used by people who have depression and anxiety because it is addictive. I am concerned about her becoming addicted, because she seems to have given up, and this would allow her to be in la la land (this from a woman who NEVER even drank alcohol). I have several other concerns about her physical and mental health. WHAT I AM ASKING, is for some recommendations on how to handle this situation. What is the best course of action? If that doesn't work, is there legal action I should consider? She received a gift when she got a decent cancer prognosis, because in my research, that isn't often the case with ovarian cancer - I feel it isn't the cancer that is going to kill her, but the depression. She is still relatively young, and I feel could have several good years ahead of her if they followed the right course of health treatment. Please help with suggestions or your experience.

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So sorry for you and your parents, Dolly. How far away do you live? Can you take time off work to make the psych appointment and take your mother to it? Your dad just isn't going to be able to make it happen.

No matter what you do, if she has decided to die, you may not be able to stop her.
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Thank you Eyerishlass for your reply. I plan to share your experience with my brother and try to take a united front with him and talk to my Dad. Our experiences seem very similar. My Mom eats very little - just small portions of watermelon. This also concerns me, because I would think that some of the medications would require they be taken with food. Also, she is having three chemo treatments following surgery (she cancelled her first appt - said she didn't feel well enough to go, white blood count was too low on her next appt, and she finally had her first treatment last week), and I think you need to eat healthy to be stronger for chemo. This is really frustrating, and a person feels helpless - it is also time consuming and worrying - and takes a toll on you. My two siblings and I are still fairly young, and all of us are working full time - so none of us can commit to full time care of a parent. We need Dad to step up and make better decisions, but this is taking a toll on him. His stress defense is smoking, which he is doing non stop - and he has COPD, so I expect he will be the next one in the hospital.
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Dear Dolly,

You are right to be concerned. I went through this with my mom as well. She had had depression/anxiety issues. She was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery, went to physical rehab and then came home. All this time she seemed ok, or as ok as someone with cancer can be. But the surgery removed the tumor. She didn't need chemo or radiation. When she came home from the rehab she went to bed and just never got up again. My dad, like your dad, did not want to rock the boat and did very little to help my mom. I work in physical rehab and I know the damage laying around all day everyday can do to a person, especially an elderly person who has had cancer. I begged my mom in person to please stay out of bed. She grew weaker. She'd get up to use the bathroom and she'd fall and my dad would call me to come get her up. I became very stern with my mom, ordering her out of bed. I begged her. I pleaded with her. I told her that she WAS GOING TO DIE. Nothing worked. She fell again and this time, when I went over there, I pretended that I could not get her up and called 911. She was mentally a little fuzzy (pain meds and antianxiety meds) and the paramedics deemed her disoriented and hauled her off to the ER. She was dead within 10 days. In my opinion, she willed herself to die. I also think she died of depression. She certainly didn't die of cancer and I would not allow that to be printed on her death certificate. "Natural causes" was on the death certificate.

Your mom MUST get up and stay up or she will die like my mom did. This stuff with my mom took place over the summer and into the fall. She died in Nov. It didn't take long. People CAN die of depression, I've seen it. My mom got a clean bill of health, she was cancer-free, and then I think the enormity of what she had been through hit her and she just gave up. A part of me will never forgive her for that. Towards the end I was very mean to her. Forceful might be a better word. I knew where she was headed and I tried to shock her into getting up but we can't make people do something they don't want to do. My aunt would screech on the phone to me every night, "Well just make her get up!!" How? Throw her over my shoulder and drag her out of bed? Sit with her 24/7 to make sure she doesn't go back to bed? I was powerless and I wanted to make sure that I said and did everything I could so that I would have no regrets because I knew she was going to die. She was 73.

Maybe someone here will offer up some sound advice but I don't know of any legal course of action you can take to make your mom want to live. To cure her depression. I talked with my mom's Dr.'s and they both said the same thing: She needs to be up and moving around. Staying in bed is the worst thing she can do. I used that when begging my mom to get out of bed but she didn't care.

I too got very forceful with my dad. He was there with her, he needed to try and get her out of bed and he said he did try. I'm sure he did. But again, we can't force people to do things if they absolutely don't want to do it.

You could stand right next to your dad while he calls the Dr. and gets a list of the meds your mom should be taking. They're not going to help much if she won't take them but it's something. It's action.

I know exactly how you're feeling. Useless, angry, desperate, scared....I felt all of those things too. I was very harsh with my mom because I knew she was killing herself and I don't regret a word I said. When she got to the ER they admitted her because her electrolytes were all screwed up, a result of lying in bed all day everyday, eating very little, drinking very little. I was holding her hand when she died. I skipped the first few steps of the grieving process and went right to anger. I took it out on everyone I came into contact with. Her death was just so useless. In my mind she committed suicide/died from depression. And there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.

Do whatever you can, Dolly, to get your mom out of bed. From beginning to end it took my mom about 12 weeks to die. She began dying the second she climbed into bed.
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