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She may feel something there like people scratch their skin and other OCD like behavior feel. Also, depending on how close to the end she is, it could be just a reflex. You may want to talk to the doctor and see if he or she thinks your mother is uncomfortable or stressed and this is a sign. The best you can do is try to keep her comfortable. Is she on hospice care? They can be very helpful.
Carol
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I use to see it in patients before they were ready to leave us I always thought they were reaching up and my MIL did just before she passed on.
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Talk to her doctor about all meds she is on and if there is a chance that this could be a reaction to a medication.

My mother did this when her dose of medication was not correct. Once her medication was corrected the action ceased.

As Carol said, it could be a reflex too. In our case, once Mom's medications were adjusted the behavior stopped.

Is she able to communicate? My mother has Alzheimer's so it is difficult for me (us) to trust her explanations. In fact, when we asked she wasn't able to 'tell' us what she was doing. Hopefully your mother will be able to tell you. Hospice (as Carol said) wll be able to help you more I am sure.
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Austin, I thought of that too----that she might be reaching "heavenward" at something she sees there, as she is approaching her time of passing from this life.
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My mother also has COPD, but not last stage. Sometimes raises her arms because she's having trouble breathing, and she says lifting her arms takes the pressure off her chest so it feels like she can breathe better. Maybe that's what your mom is doing...just a thought...
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my dad did that last summer , he acted that way for a whole 2 weeks and i sure thought he was on his way out . then he finaly snaped out of it and is back to himself . once in a while he d do that for few days then he s ok . it just comes and goes .
even says his siblings name and even callin out to his mother .
some days he keeps askin me wheres your momma ?
i think im gonna take him out for a long enjoyable ride tmr .
he s bored . sight seeing will do him good .
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My 84 yr old father, who has COPD was also doing this plucking motion in his sleep at night and during naps. Sometimes he reaches into the air as if he's gently plucking small fruit (like cherries) from a tree. Other times he runs his hand along his blanket like he is searching for something and when he locates what ever it may be, he gently plucks it and continues searching. Almost like weeding the lawn. He would become very verbal and animated in his sleep. We would watch him paint, write and erase, count and move inventory, plant, etc. We thought it was cute for awhile, but then started noticing how mentally and physically exhausted he became even after doing it for just one night. After reviewing and adjusting medications that may contribute to this, due to rx interactions or just the way a patient's body responds to certain meds, we finally asked the nurse for a mild medication to help him sleep. Be very careful and consult your doctor on any sleep medications. Monitor they're behavior and look for any undesirable symptoms. If this should occur, consult their doctor. We found that even what was to be considered a very small dose of prescribed xanex only brought on different complications. Dad was unable to get out of bed to use the bathroom in time and became confused and disoriented. He was unable to walk or even keep his eyes open. It was scary. We found that even a 1/4 of the prescribed dose still seemed to be too much for him. We have asked the nurse for an alternative sleep medication to try. Hopefully it will be successful so that he can get the rest he needs.
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