July 17, 2016
This morning I Googled, “once an elderly person stays in bed to die, how long does it take?” The article below describes what I’m seeing my mother going through and gives a response to many of my concerns, such as dehydration.
Most days my 95-year-old mother is peaceful, looking more and more ethereal and angelic with her white hair spread out on her pillow like a halo. But early this morning my youngest sister reported again that last night my mother was restless, shouting, removing the covers, though we do not feel that she is in pain. My sister tried giving her a small amount of medication (as recommended by Hospice) to calm her —but she can hardly swallow water . . . This death feels like a long gestation . . . We don’t want to rush death but neither do we want to prolong any suffering.
From my experience some years ago helping an elder friend who consciously refused both food and water and who said she was “comfortable” and was totally lucid without any sustenance except one cup of camomile tea around the midway point, I have some idea how long my mother’s dying process might take.
I can feel my mother’s pulse, the blood flowing . . . the body has a will, a life of its own. My mother often stares down at her skeletal arms and hands, as if wondering, “How did this happen?” As if her body is totally foreign to her now.
My long ago elder friend who refused food and water was surprised to find herself still alive as she approached the two-week point. Hours before her death, I helped her shower. “The water feels so good,” she said, but I never saw her drink it. The day she died I read her a favorite story . . . She was in good spirits and tranquil when her body finally gave up the ghost in the early morning hours of the seventeenth day . . .
The story of my friend’s conscious death: Winter Solstice Liberation
Caring for the Dying: End-of-Life Care
Comfort Care Choices – Information on Palliative Care