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Preparing dad for mum's dying

(11 Posts)
Daffydilly Sun 28-Apr-19 15:54:51

My darling mum is in a nursing home. She has cancer, severe dementia and has recently had surgery for a broken hip following a fall. Her dementia has taken a massive hit from the fall and surgery.

She is extremely weak, both mentally and physically and has not been on her feet since surgery 10 days ago. She is barely eating or drinking. Thinking clearly, I don't think we have her for much longer.

My worry right now is for my stepfather. He is utterly devoted to mum and keeps trying to make her eat, he says he wants her to eat to get stronger. This is distressing her and I feel that she is ready to die. It feels like eating is the only thing in her life that she can control.

My stepdad is devastated and I'm so worried about him.

How can I help him over this difficult period? I've tried to explain that she is near the end and he understands but seems to default back to talking about her getting better and stronger if he can get her to eat.

They have been the most wonderful parents and I'm at a loss to know what to do for them.

M0nica Sun 28-Apr-19 16:32:51

I think leave him. He has been told and finds this difficult to process. Just try and distract his attention to something else, or point out that your mother doesn't want to eat now, perhaps later?

Death is such a hard thing to adjust to when you love someone.

Sara65 Sun 28-Apr-19 16:36:55

This reminds me of my dear grandparents, my very elderly granny had a very short time left to live, and my grandpa thought she’d feel a lot better if she got up and stringed the runner beans he’d just picked!
Just their way of dealing with it I suppose.
I’m not sure there’s much you can do, he probably knows in his heart she’s not going to get better, just can’t admit it yet
Sad times for you all

Dillyduck Sun 28-Apr-19 16:37:39

Google "Signs of Dying". There are some great articles written by people from the hospice movement, which explain that the body knows how much food or drink it can cope with, so force feeding or drinking is really not helpful. Any carer needs to accept when someone has had enough food or drink, but "a little and often" of whatever they fancy is better. I wish I'd read these articles years earlier when the first parent was poorly.

notanan2 Sun 28-Apr-19 16:45:11

If she really is shutting down and dying, feeding her can cause pain and distress as the gut slows down too when the body is dying so unless she is still feeling that wants it, it will have nowhere to go and will cause nausia, possibly vomiting, and quite possibly the vomit will go into the lungs.

So I dont think "leave him to it" is appropriate but also OP I dont think it should be on you to tell him he is wrong. Where are the staff? They must encounter this often and should know how to gently help your father cope in a way that wont cause your mother a less distressing death.

Can you ask for a referral to the palliative nurses and get them involved in supporting him?

Its not your job, you should be "free" to just be there with her. The healthcare staff should be referring to people skilled at explaining what is happening to you dad x

LadyGracie Sun 28-Apr-19 16:50:31

My dad was the same, I think it was his way of coping, he had done absolutely everything for mum for the last couple of years of her illness.

Such a sad time

notanan2 Sun 28-Apr-19 17:00:20

Sorry, "stepdad" x

Here are some "jobs" he CAN do to give him that sense of caring for her:
Keep her lips moist
Massage/cream her hands
Read to her or chose music/radiostation
Pick soft materials for her to wear or soft blankets/soft toys for her to have against her skin.
Make sure she has her favorite toiletries for when the staff help her with her wash.
Her fav perfume
Bring in nice photos/pictures for her room
Alert staff to signs of pain or distress (frowning/groaning/fast breathing/agitation)
And then yes, give her sips of drinks or food if she expresses that she has an appetite for it. Her appetite will adjust in line with how fast/slow the stomach is emptying, so if she DOES ask for it, its okay to give

sodapop Sun 28-Apr-19 17:07:55

Yes so sad Daffydilly I'm sorry your Mum is suffering so much, we can only wish her a peaceful and gentle end to her life.
Your stepfather is coping in the way he can, as MOnica said, try to distract him a little and continue to support him. Don't forget to take care of yourself in the midst of all this.
My sympathies to you and your family.

LullyDully Sun 28-Apr-19 17:11:48

daffy all the advice given is good. Don't forget your own feeling whilst worrying about your stepfather. A sad time, it sounds to me like your mum would be proud of you.

notanan2 Sun 28-Apr-19 17:23:50

daffy all the advice given is good. Don't forget your own feeling whilst worrying about your stepfather

Absolutely. thanks

Luckygirl Sun 28-Apr-19 17:55:32

I am not sure that you can really influence your stepfather in this. I remember my FIL saying that he knew his wife was dying when no-one tried to make her eat - but he felt able to accept this.

You are stuck in the middle here - you have your own grief to contend with and it is hard to have to support another person, who is trying to deny the reality, which I am sure you wish were possible for you.

I wish you all strength in the time to come. flowers