Our mom has started telling us she’s going to die soon. If that’s true, what should we be watching for?
Based on published studies as well as discussions I’ve had with families, I would suggest that when several of the following clues appear, people are preparing—consciously or subconsciously—for their End-of-Life [EOL].
Increasing dependence on others. Probably one of the best predictors of an approaching EOL is someone rapidly losing their ability to care for themselves, in other words their ADL’s [Activities of Daily Living]: they need increasing help with dressing, bathing, toileting, food preparation, walking.
A new incurable and terminal disease [such as metastatic cancer] develops.
– They eat less; and begin to steadily lose weight.
– They start making comments that they “won’t be here this time next year”; and that they are “tired and ready to go any time”! Many patients do predict their own deaths!
– They begin talking more about deceased family or friends and wanting to see them again.
– They suddenly begin to make funeral arrangements, buy a gravesite, complete a will, make a list of who gets what after they die.
– There’s an increase in doctor visits and admissions to hospital; a particularly worrisome event is breaking a hip.
– They lose interest in activities/readings/TV/family.
It’s important to make sure they don’t have an easily treatable problem or that they aren’t primarily depressed (where taking an anti-depressant might reverse their decline). If that’s not an issue, and they are showing many of the above behaviors, then they likely are in a ‘Downward Spiral’—one medical crisis leads to another—and may not live another year [though I’ve been fooled more than once!].
So, if you see this, help them focus on living comfortably and enjoying life as long as possible; and, according to the wise ‘Maxine’, “stay away from doctors”!