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Old 08-20-2011, 12:49 PM
 
5,426 posts, read 3,446,805 times
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People can definitely will themselves to die. My mother had metastasized cancer in lungs and abdomen and as it worsened in hospice, she said repeatedly that she was ready to die. She stopped eating and was dead within a week. They also give large doses of morphine to cancer patients which can definitely hasten death.

And as I mentioned, my father willed himself to die after my mother (above) died as he did not wish to live without my mother on earth. So he refused to walk, would not get out of bed, slept almost 24 hrs per day, and stopped eating. He was in a nursing home at the end.

He died less than three months after my mother died, as it was his most definite wish to die. He was in decent shape when his wife (my mother) died, but shortly after her death he just collapsed in a heap and would not walk or move around. It was psychological, not physical.

And my grandfather just decided that he did not want to live anymore, stopped eating, and died in a week or so (in a nursing home)

Last edited by matisse12; 08-20-2011 at 12:59 PM..
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Old 08-20-2011, 01:46 PM
 
Location: Arizona
419 posts, read 657,879 times
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In reading through these posts, I suspect there are people who simply die from "a broken heart".

There are grief support groups and hospice offers grief counseling. While these services comfort many, there are some people who just cannot be reached. Much like soldiers returning from war. Most can cope and get on with their lives while others struggle and still others resort to suicide.

As a couple posters mentioned, not all old people in nursing homes are lingering and willing themselves to die. There are good homes where residents are not miserable and actually like their environment. My Aunt lived in such a home which was a medicaid facility. Once being placed there her health improved dramatically. Could be because she was finally away from her abusive husband who had been her caregiver.
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Old 08-20-2011, 02:48 PM
 
Location: SW MO
23,605 posts, read 31,475,774 times
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Loneliness is the bane of many seniors, especially those who have lost a spouse. Often, placement in a facility gives them the socialization they've been missing and longing for.

Two of the most common health conditions for seniors living alone are malnutrition and dehydration. Again, a facility can manage these and lead to a better quality of life.
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:48 PM
 
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I've wondered the same thing and with no particular background or training but a little experience here and there I've come to the conclusion that we can live through incredible pain and suffer for very long times and it can take a very long time to die. It just all depends on medical conditions and how they impact each other.
I do not think we can will ourselves to die. I think if we could there would be much more evidence of people doing so.
Personally I hope I can convey to whoever at the time that once my quality of life is gone to withhold medications except pain meds. Or something like that:0
I too don't begin to understand how people cling to life. 95 yr olds who elect to undergo major extensive surgery when the likelihood of success is very low - I don't want to be insensitive I don't deal with death very well and I know its hard but its sort of crazy isn't it? I think the media is part of it, all that "well they fought till the very end, they were a fighter, the family tried everything". Heaven help us or the family if we don't go to the most ridiculous extremes, we must be awful people.
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:15 PM
 
Location: Tucson/Nogales
17,391 posts, read 21,228,976 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix lady View Post
The best thing to keep a loved one safe is VIGILANCE. Be there every day, at different times. Watch what's going on. Report things that don't seem right. Be the thorn in their side.
Vigilance can also work against your loved one.

Put yourself in the place of an Administrator, what would be your most ideal patients for your facility? Those without family/friends coming to visit would be picture perfect!

You really want some nagging family member there everyday, the Administrator fearful that any day that family member may run to any number of attorney's who specialize in suing nursing homes?

I've seen it myself working in these homes, the over-vigilant family members who can be a nightmare to the staff.

And what happens when that patient, eventually, goes to the hospital and they're released and the patient wishes to return to the nursing home?

Yup! Big lie! No empty beds, sorry! And the family liked the proximity of this nursing home to their houses, a short drive, and now? The only opening is at a facility 15-20 miles away!

I knew a trouble-maker patient who had made the rounds of every nursing home in our city, to the point, no facility wanted her. And then? Off to a facility in Utah she went!
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Old 08-20-2011, 09:08 PM
 
Location: Nebraska
4,178 posts, read 9,415,034 times
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Being in EMS with my DH, who also did maintenance at a nursing home, we have a lot of stories to tell.

As for people "willing themselves to die", yes I believe they can and often do. There were several elderly, loving couples whom we knew thru EMS who did this. First one of the couple would pass, from a heart attack, stroke, whatever. Within a year, the spouse would die - undetected cancer, stroke, even sometimes a broken hip from which they had no desire to recover, and they continued to rapidly deteriorate. It got so that when we worked on one spouse, we knew we would be called to the other, and soon. (Spouses where repetitive violence, emotional or mental abuse, or loss of affection were present, were not so affected.) The death certificate might have read "heart failure", but we were forced to accept that it was more like "heart broken". It was predictable and uncanny.


Also doctors - particularly geriactric doctors, in my experience - will put patients on any and every new drug, oftentimes not even caring that older patients are often more susceptible to drugs, or that multiple drugs can cause symptoms of dementia as well as endanger the patient's life with side effects. I knew of three patients - one was my own mother - who were on so many medications that they simply could not function and had been diagnosed with dementia. One doctor, whom I 'tricked' my mother into seeing, pulled her down from 21 medications to 5! He even showed my mother and me the side effects of the combination of drugs that her previous doctor had put her on, that would have lowered her immune system's ability to fight infection - and one drug actually raised her blood pressure, so she was prescribed two more medications to lower it!

Another very close friend was dying of bowel cancer; surgery nor chemo helped, and her doc gave her 6 months to live. She had made her peace, put her affairs in order, signed her DNR orders, and planned to go out at home, in hospice care - but with only two months left to live, another doctor (whom her son insisted she see) told her that she could live another three months if she would agree to a heart cath/stint! She laughed in his face and refused; but her son (to whom she had given power of attorney when she knew she was going to die) revoked her wishes and had the surgeon go ahead. She lived another six weeks only, in still more pain, and in the hospital where she finally died.

I once formally reported a doctor who insisted that a full brain cat-scan be done on an 84 year old woman who had multiple strokes. She was so mentally 'vacant' that, throughout the entire ordeal, all she could do was cry quietly. When I got her back to her bed, the doctor turned to one of the nurses and said, "Pay up. I told you her brain was more than 60% destroyed!" He had ordered the catscan to win a $100 bet.

So excessive longevity is often a combination of increased (and increasingly expensive) medications, medical care, tests, and procedures that artificially extend a person's life, by artificially keeping their bodies' organs and systems 'at a norm' - cruelly keeping them mentally confused, medicated, and in pain for much longer. People, IMHO, were meant to die in their own time, and not when someone finally unplugs the last machine <shudder> or wrings the last dollar out of the insurance companies, family, and estate.
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Old 08-20-2011, 09:28 PM
 
Location: Near a river
16,042 posts, read 18,971,705 times
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SC Granny, your post, above is a powerful story, well told. It is making me respect my late mother a little more. Although she could be a b**** on wheels, she refused to see a doctor of any kind, no health professional whatsoever, in her entire adult life except to have her 4 children. She must have been a Christian Scientist at heart. She nursed herself through every illness including terrible 3-week flus and two bouts of pneumonia and had things her own way in the end--she died at home on her own. In retrospect, in her old age she saved her daughters hundreds of hours waiting in doctors' waiting rooms, driving her there and back, in the middle of overworked careers. She saved us from the ordeals of hospitalizations and endless visits to a nursing home. She believed in taking care of herself and although she ate not the best food in the world, she ate very little and walked a lot and did all her own housework till the end. I wonder if I would have the guts to do what she did.
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Old 08-20-2011, 10:20 PM
 
10,813 posts, read 8,059,843 times
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For every example given of someone who "willed" his/herself to die, I can think of someone who desperately wanted to die but lingered on and on and on, for years, in a nursing home or assisted-living center.
Conversely, I've known others (including my elderly mother) who were death-phobic and tried desperately to cling to life, but couldn't.

I'd like to think, that in the end when our health is failing, we have some measure of control over how long we have. But fate/destiny/life/God/circumstance all say "ha!", and it somehow seems like ~blaming the victim~ to put too much emphasis on the will to live or die.
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Old 08-21-2011, 06:39 AM
 
Location: Near a river
16,042 posts, read 18,971,705 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tijlover View Post
Vigilance can also work against your loved one.

Put yourself in the place of an Administrator, what would be your most ideal patients for your facility? Those without family/friends coming to visit would be picture perfect!

You really want some nagging family member there everyday, the Administrator fearful that any day that family member may run to any number of attorney's who specialize in suing nursing homes?

I've seen it myself working in these homes, the over-vigilant family members who can be a nightmare to the staff.

And what happens when that patient, eventually, goes to the hospital and they're released and the patient wishes to return to the nursing home?

Yup! Big lie! No empty beds, sorry! And the family liked the proximity of this nursing home to their houses, a short drive, and now? The only opening is at a facility 15-20 miles away!

I knew a trouble-maker patient who had made the rounds of every nursing home in our city, to the point, no facility wanted her. And then? Off to a facility in Utah she went!
This is probably true, scary and disheartening. The best approach is to be vigilant but also tactful, kind, sweet, etc to all the staff and bring them flowers and candy on a regular basis. Volunteer there for a few hours a week or month if time. The few hours spent volunteering is nothing compared to having your relative live with you. If you see something out of whack, any kind of neglect or mistreatment of any kind, make sure you say it carefully---"I know you folks have so much to do, especially in the mornings, but is there any way you could get my mom up a little earlier to go to the bathroom--could you even put it on her chart? By the way, I'm here for an extra half hour today and can [do anything short of emptying bedpans]...."
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Old 08-21-2011, 07:41 AM
 
Location: Orlando
1,984 posts, read 2,634,653 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newenglandgirl View Post
This is probably true, scary and disheartening. The best approach is to be vigilant but also tactful, kind, sweet, etc to all the staff and bring them flowers and candy on a regular basis. Volunteer there for a few hours a week or month if time. The few hours spent volunteering is nothing compared to having your relative live with you. If you see something out of whack, any kind of neglect or mistreatment of any kind, make sure you say it carefully---"I know you folks have so much to do, especially in the mornings, but is there any way you could get my mom up a little earlier to go to the bathroom--could you even put it on her chart? By the way, I'm here for an extra half hour today and can [do anything short of emptying bedpans]...."

This is such good advice, newenglandgirl. I tried to rep you for it but I was told I have to spread it around some first.
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