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process of dying

(26 Posts)
CanadianGran Mon 12-Apr-21 19:31:00

My dear mother-in-law is near the end of her days. She is 91 and has health issues since last fall. She has had her Covid vaccine but still was tested positive on Good Friday.

Other than a fever she has had no symptoms, but that was enough to set her along the path to the end. She was taking very little food in the weeks before that, and in a lot of pain from various other health issues.

My query is about the amount of time without liquids. She has not had any liquid since Good Friday Apr 2. The very rare sip of water, and a few drops administered by dropper to moisten her mouth. I thought she would pass within 3 days, but it is now 10 days of no nourishment or liquid and heavily medicated to remain calm. She occasionally will have a spell of tremors which is very hard to see, and will be medicated again to rest.

Surprisingly the staff at the long term care facility has allowed visitation (full PPE) which is a godsend; my DH and I have been taking turns going up. But how long can a body last? What had been your experience?

I don't want to re-awaken sad experience memories for others, but want to know if this is exceptionally unusual for a person to last so long in palliative state. My heart is breaking for her, and at this point I want a peaceful end for her.

Jalyn Mon 12-Apr-21 19:44:09

So sorry to read this. Having suffered a stroke/seizure (doctors couldn't decide which), my DMIL remained unconscious in hospital, without liquid or nourishment for 3.5 weeks before she died. We used to moisten her mouth during visits to try to keep her comfortable. I had a chat with a nurse a few days before she died, and asked her how long she thought it would be before she died, and she told me that she had not known anyone last more than 3.5 weeks. This is probably not what you wanted to hear as it is so upsetting to sit by the bedside of a loved one waiting for them to die. I hope you don't have to wait as long as us and that she dies peacefully.

Grandma70s Mon 12-Apr-21 19:54:00

What is the reason for withholding water? It seems very cruel.

SueDonim Mon 12-Apr-21 19:55:37

I’m so sorry to hear this. flowers

My MiL was similar. In her 90’s she had a fall, was in hospital for a while then went to a care home. She survived there for about three weeks on the occasional spoonful of yoghurt. We live a long way away so my sister-in-law kept us informed and it seems that mil was peaceful until the end.

keepingquiet Mon 12-Apr-21 19:59:25

Nature has to take its course, when it is her time, she will go. Just let her know you are there.

Witzend Mon 12-Apr-21 20:06:46

It does seem a long time, CG, but I don’t think it’s especially unusual. But very hard for those who can only watch and wait.

An elderly aunt of mine who’d been refusing food and drink after the umpteenth urinary tract infection, lasted about a week. I sat with her a lot, and she did not seem to be in any distress, she was asleep nearly all the time. The care home staff continued to offer food and drink but she would close her mouth and turn her head away.
Her mouth was kept moist with little sponges for the purpose,

As some doctor once put it, ‘They are not dying because they are not eating and drinking. They are not eating and drinking because they are dying.’

Does your MiL appear to be in any distress? It’s good to hear that she’s on medication to minimise any such thing.

Peasblossom Mon 12-Apr-21 20:29:42

It’s not cruel Grandma70s, if the mouth is kept moist and comfortable. If the vital organs, such as kidneys or the digestive organs are shutting down, then a drink can’t be processed and stays uncomfortably in the body and can lead to swelling.

Also swallowing becomes very difficult and people can choke or inhale fluids into their lungs.

Little sips or swapping is mostly recognised as best, though it’s fair to say that some doctors do administer fluids intravenously.

We are told so little about dying, I think. Especially how long it can take for the body to relinquish its hold on life.

My thoughts are with you, CanadianGran.

foxie48 Mon 12-Apr-21 21:00:42

My MIL lived with us for the last few years of her life and we were able to keep her at home with us until the end. Her heart was failing and medication in a sufficient amount to clear the fluid from her chest made her feel very unwell so she made the decision to stop medication and just receive palliative care. she was 101, sound of mind and it was with the knowledge of her GP. She didn't want to eat and gradually neither did she want to take fluids. I was able to keep her comfortable with a gel recommended by the community nurse and the occasional sip of water. It is very hard to watch and it took longer for her to die than I thought but as long as she was pain free and comfortable, I felt we were carrying out her wishes. When she started to show signs of distress we were able to give her a morphine syrup and eventually she had a pump. It was a huge privilege to be able to look after her and we were with her when she died as she would have wished. Stay strong, I hope your MIL will be kept comfortable to the end.

CanadianGran Tue 13-Apr-21 01:30:08

Thank you all for sharing experiences. She did not wish to be kept alive with intravenous fluid or tube feeding, and I have seen her turn her head when offered water in a dropper. They are indeed moisturizing her mouth with a fluid or gel, and keeping her topped up with morphine, so to me it seems her body won't let go of her soul just yet. I'm just surprised at the length of time.

It has been hard on us, but recognizing we can't be with her every moment, and she may die while we are not there, but we can't feel guilty about it, since we are spending quite a bit of time there each day.

3dognight Tue 13-Apr-21 02:11:52

My sister has nursed people dying at home for 30 plus years and is of the opinion that death for many is private thing and they often pass when loved ones have just nipped out to make a drink or such like. Look after your self and perhaps don’t be too harsh on your self if she passes and you are absent, thanksflowers

Whiff Tue 13-Apr-21 06:16:15

3dognight think your sister is right. I sat by my mother in law's side for 2 days only just got home and had the call she died within 15 mins of me leaving. My mom lived with me the last 18 months of her life. I went to the toilet and she died then. But my husband it was different. The children and I where with him to the end. I told him to stop fighting he couldn't breathe even on full oxygen. I said we will be alright he died minutes later. Think the difference is in age my mom was 90, mother in law 91 and my husband 47.

lemsip Tue 13-Apr-21 07:46:03

four years ago my sister in law had a serious brain bleed and was dying . I sat with my brother and family. She was only sixty and a dreadful shock. She was on morphine drip and looked so very peaceful like she was asleep hard to take in what had happened. Suddenly she sneezed and made us jump... It took about 8 hours till she died. I was shocked that she was convulsed up when the it happened yet looked 'normal and beautiful as she died. Still upsets me.....

dragonfly46 Tue 13-Apr-21 07:50:12

My dad took 2 weeks and my mum 3 days. Neither needed medication and went peacefully. My dad was 97 and my mum 100.

Shropshirelass Tue 13-Apr-21 09:20:01

I am going through this at the moment with an elderly relative, just a week in so monitoring very closely. The brain undergoes chemical changes during the days preceding death preparing the body for death, part of this is not wanting to eat or drink. Food and drinks are offered but usually refused apart from maybe a spoonful or a sip now and then. As long as the person is kept warm, comfortable, free from pain and not agitated then nature will take its course peacefully. It is a natural process.

trisher Tue 13-Apr-21 09:27:10

One of the first signs of approaching death is the loss of the swallowing reflex. It means drinks cannot be safely given as the liquid may go into the lungs. I hope your MIL is comfortable and is soon at peace CanadianGran

CanadianGran Sun 18-Apr-21 22:54:26

Update: my dear mother in law finally passed away yesterday. She was a very tiny, but very strong woman. Bless her heart, lingering for 15 days with no liquid or nourishment was difficult to watch. The nurses were so kind and caring and did all they could to keep her comfortble.

And now we must move on. I think this will be difficult for my husband, since he has been visiting his mother almost daily for years. He is relieved that her body is gone, but will miss her lively spirit.

Spinnaker Sun 18-Apr-21 23:09:35

Condolences CanadianGran to you and your family flowers

SueDonim Sun 18-Apr-21 23:29:38

I’m sorry, Canadiangran. flowers Thank you for coming back to this thread. X

Blossoming Sun 18-Apr-21 23:55:00

So sorry for your loss ❤️

nadateturbe Mon 19-Apr-21 00:31:19

Condolences Canadiangran flowers

3dognight Mon 19-Apr-21 01:38:44

Thanks for the update.
Your husband sounds a very caring man. I am sorry for your loss.

Party4 Mon 19-Apr-21 03:16:59

So sorry for your loss

Calendargirl Mon 19-Apr-21 07:13:32

Thank you for the update.

flowers

Whiff Mon 19-Apr-21 08:41:40

Canadiangran sorry for your loss. But it's early days and I know it's hard but try and remember her as she was not what her body became. Unfortunately there is none stop things to do and you won't be able to.have the funeral you want if it's anything like the rules here. All you can do is support eachother and encourage your husband to talk out loud to his mom. I promise it does help. I have been doing that for 17 years since my husband died and encouraged my mom to do it after my dad died. Try and remember the funny silly things she did or say. It's heartbreaking but it does help. Just do the things that need to be sorted out now. Other things can wait until you both feel strong enough. She must have been a very strong willed lady with great courage to last so long. As you may already know grief is full of emotions. No emotion is wrong. Whatever either of you feel is right. After my husband died what surprised me was the anger and rage I felt. I felt wicked for feeling that then realised it was normal. I felt the same rage and anger after mom died. Because dementia had destroyed my mom . I grieved for her while she was alive. My gentle independent mom had died but her body lived. She became violent and totally dependent on me. But I looked after until the day she died.

I am an atheist. But if you are religious hopefully your faith will help you both.

In my experience time doesn't heal but you learn to cope with the loss of your loved one. 💐💐💐

Alexa Mon 19-Apr-21 08:53:10

They can give tranquillisers to stop the dying person suffering anxiety.