Facing the reality of a parent dying is challenging for most adult children. When your elderly mom is dying, you will have to come to terms with her deteriorating physical and mental state, while also dealing with your own grieving process. You may have to make difficult choices about her care, while having to come to terms with your own fears and feelings of helplessness, sadness and loss.
Physical changes are usually the most noticeable when someone is dying from old age. Your mom may rapidly and consistently lose weight, grow weaker and need assistance with basic tasks such as getting in and out of bed, using the bathroom and taking a bath. She may complain of fatigue that results in frequent naps. Your mom’s physical deterioration may be difficult for you and others to witness and accept. Having to increasingly assist her physically may take a physical and emotional toll on you. You may experience periods of frustration followed by feelings of guilt and sadness as a result of your mom’s weakening condition.
Your mom may believe that her condition will improve and talk about getting better. However, as her condition deteriorates, she may also have angry outbursts targeted at you or others. You may also notice mood swings fluctuating between joy and depression. As she continues to grow weaker, she may slowly accept that her health will not improve. When she begins to accept her condition, you may notice that she is calmer and more content. While you observe the changes in her disposition, you may experience your own feelings of denial followed by anger and frustration at your inability to make things better. As you take care of your weakening mom, you may already start your grieving process and experience feelings of sadness, helplessness and loss.
Your mom may show decreased interest in regular social activities. She may stop visiting friends and family and choose not to attend meaningful family gatherings, which may come as a shock to you and other relatives. As you notice that she is not as social as you were accustomed to her being, you may be confused by her behavior and begin to worry about her not having enough contact with others. You may want to spend more time with her for fear that she feels isolated and lonely. As she spends more time by herself, you may experience guilt or feel anxious if you cannot spend more time with her.
While your mom's physical, psychological and social deterioration continue to impact both of you, you may need assistance to take care of her while still taking care of your own personal responsibilities. Palliative care focuses specifically on taking care of terminally ill and dying patients, ensuring that your mom is comfortable, is turned regularly in bed, if needed, and receives appropriate nutrition and personal hygiene care. The decision for palliative care may be one of the most difficult things for you to do, because it may be the final confirmation that your mom will not get better and that she is dying. You may feel guilty and inadequate because you are unable to offer all the help she needs during her final days of life personally.