Tips for dealing with the last months of mum's life

(52 Posts)
Oly4 Sat 11-Jul-15 13:55:20

My beloved mother is dying of cancer and I don't think she has many months left.
Have any of you who have been here before me got any tips on dealing with this? Is there anything you did that gives you comfort now your loved one has passed/ is there anything you said to the dying person that brought comfort?
I live at the other end of the UK to mY mother but visit all the time/take my DCs with me. We haven't talked much about death and dying. I'm just there for the mundane stuff like chatting, watching TV, helping where I can.
A friend of my be suggested recording mum talking about her life but I'm finding it hard to bring it up as its like saying - "look we both know you're going to die soon so can I record you so we have some memories?"
All suggestions gratefully received, thanks

Chottie Sat 11-Jul-15 14:01:41

I am so very sorry to read your post, it's never easy to say goodbye to someone you love so much flowers

I was just wondering, does your mother know she is dying? If she does, I would ask her what she would like to do.

I had a similar situation with my father and in your place, I would tell her how much I loved her, how glad I was that she was my mother, how much happiness and joy she has brought to my life and how grateful I was for the love and care she had always given me. I would talk about happy family times and look at photographs.

juliascurr Sat 11-Jul-15 14:09:10

MacMillan were very helpful with friends' parents, also hospices
I've heard that finding out the person's priorities eg with family; at home; pain free; 'bucket list' experiences; whatever
then work from there
make sure you tell them you love them
xx

Oly4 Sat 11-Jul-15 14:33:03

Thank you, this is really helpful. Mum does know she is dying but none of us can say for sure how long she has. She is going downhill.
I'm gearing up to the 'how/where do you want to die' conversation. I think ensuring she has a 'good' death with her family around is important

Procrastinatingpeacock Thu 16-Jul-15 15:55:24

Sorry you are going through this Oly4. My mum died recently of cancer. She had had a terminal diagnosis for quite some time and 6 months ago I was in a position very much like yours, knowing she was going downhill but not really sure how long she had left and what to expect.

Knowing where she wants to die is really important, both for her but also for you and the family. I take great comfort from the fact that my mum died at home as she had wished; because we had had that conversation before she got very ill we were able to get the necessary support in place.

I spent as much time as I could with my mum in her final months and took my DC with me as well. If the idea of recording your mum feels wrong to you then don't do it. When she was ill I sometimes felt that I should be doing things like that - instead we just chatted about normal stuff and tried to keep things as normal as possible whilst not ignoring her illness. In hindsight I feel that this was definitely the right thing for us to do, just do what feels right to you and your family. Memory boxes etc can be great but they are not for everyone.

About a month before my mum died she let me know how she would like her funeral to be. She had put all of her affairs in order to minimise stress after she died and I am very grateful for that.

I hope that you and your family are able to get through this really difficult time. It sounds terrible but for me my mum's death was in many ways a relief. It had been hanging over us all for so long that it felt like a release to be able to move on with life. Not to say that I don't miss her dreadfully of course.

Oly4 Thu 16-Jul-15 17:55:21

Thanks so much procrastinate. Your words of wisdom will help
Me very much. I'm pretty sure my mum will also want to die at home though so far she has shunned the idea of Macmillan nurses. I guess that will come.
We also just chat about normal stuff/hang out with the kids. I get the impression that's what she wants, not deep and meaningfuls and video recordings. I'm just worried I will regret something if I don't do it.
It is so incredibly sad. I am going to miss her so much and I'd do anything to prevent her death. Though I am trying to see some positives... Not everybody gets to spend precioys time with their loved ones before they die. In a way, that is a gift

whatisforteamum Sat 18-Jul-15 19:17:28

Oly4 im in the same boat df has terminal cancer that hasnt been responding to treatment for months.He now has had 3 infections and been very unwell this last week so his 1 yr prognosis from march sounds optimistic.He has planned his funeral and discussed end of life meds so now we are making the most of his good days although he tires quickly.His brother came this week and his sister is due end of next.We keep things normalish although his illness isnt hushed up either.
This week will be his last birthday so i plan on baking him a cake we will see how the day goes dependant on how dad is.
My Mum who has battled cancer too makes dark humour her thing as dad is changing his hire car to a black one she remarked it would be good practice for him !! he thought that was hilarious.Mostly we are respectful and grateful for the extra time weve had and saddened by his deterioation.

kua Sat 18-Jul-15 19:33:38

A couple of practical things. My dad ,sister and I were given Power of Attorney, my mum requested no extraordinary measures to be made.

Marie Currie were amazing. They helped with stabilising the pain/ looking at the myriad of pills she had been prescribed etc.

Unfortunately my mum only had 6 months from diagnosis and she passed away in hospice. Originally, she wanted die at home but after spending a few days over the 6 months while they helped stabilise the pain she changed her mind. I think the spa bath/ getting her hair done and being able to speak to others in the same situation brought her comfort.

Our GP was also excellent and gave us some practical ideas as in a raising chair and the table/tray stand that goes over the bed. TV in the bedroom for when she feels tired. My mum also liked listening to the radio on a little portable with ear buds.

I'm so sorry you are going through this.

overthemill Sat 18-Jul-15 19:41:23

I am sorry, it's such a difficult time especially as you are far away. When my mum was terminally ill I tried to spend lots of time with her and would drive down after work (2 hours) spend the night and drive back early next day as often as I could. I visited at weekends too. Later I stayed at the hospice and was with her when she actually died. During this time while she could still speak we talked - about everything and anything. Sometimes I'd sit in her room and do cross stitch ( a very quiet activity so it didn't bother her) while she rested or slept. One of the best things that we did ( with my sisters too ) was plan her funeral. Bizarre but it meant we had everything she wanted and no hymns or readings she hated ( she had been a Sunday school teacher when I was a child). I gave my dad a bit of time off whenever I could and chatted to the Marie curie and hospice nurses too and that brought me peace. And although not especially religious I found talking to hospice chaplain very helpful - it really is a time for rituals. Later at the very end I literally cared for her, washed her, held water to her lips, sponged her mouth. It all helped me and I think she found it soothing.

googlenut Sat 18-Jul-15 19:46:14

Hi I had to face this recently but in a much more rapid time scale - my father died within a week of having a stroke. It is a profound experience to be with a parent as they die. Be there for them, show them how much you love them - sometimes with words, sometimes stroking their brow, sometimes easing their discomfort (my dad loved having his lips moistened) sometimes holding their hands sometimes just sitting by the bedside and loving on them. Gosh it's hard but such a privilege . Go easy on yourself xx

kua Sat 18-Jul-15 19:58:16

I'm not sure how old your children are, but one of mine and DS strongest memories is him practicing his school talk on lemurs while she was in bed. I can't hear the word lemur without thinking of that day. ( in a good way). So, as much as she was unwell she really enjoyed hearing about his daily minutiae.

I say the above, as she was very upset that she would not see him grow up, he was 9 at the time. My sis and I, well let's just say she had seen it all!! So, perhaps keep your children involved in visiting and talking about their "stuff".

Oly4 Sat 18-Jul-15 23:38:15

Thanks so much, this is really helpful. Just knowing other people have been there and hearings your experiences means a lot

kua Sat 18-Jul-15 23:46:17

It's hard going..isn't it. Try to look after yourself .Make sure you have some sleep.. x

Follyfoot Sat 18-Jul-15 23:56:22

flowers Thinking of you Oly4

Others have said it, but it bears repeating. Truly, the most important thing of all is spending time with her, knowing you both made the most of this precious time together will be a great comfort to you in the tough days ahead. During those times together, say everything you want to say - when it feels right, let her know how much you love her and all the other things you feel you want her to know. Even if you write some of it down and give it to her that way, just knowing that you told her will be something for yo uboth to hold on to.

Unfortunately we have lost a number of close family and friends to cancer; the other thing I just wanted to say is that in my experience each terminally ill person does things very much their way. My Dad never spoke of his illness once, my best friend mentioned it just the one time, but my SIL talked completely openly about how she felt, both mentally and physically. There was no right or wrong about it, it just felt really important to respect how they wanted to approach things and go with it. Dont know if any of that makes sense?

ancientbuchanan Sun 19-Jul-15 00:23:18

Tell her you love her. Send her a post card if you can't be there each day.remind her of the lovely things you did together. I told my DM how much I loved the names they gave me and she loved that.

If she has fears of death or dying, get people to help you help her, a hospital chaplain, someone from the humanist society.

Try yo sort out as much if the bureaucracy now, before the end. Get and register a lasting power of attorney. Make sure she has a valid will in place. Discover where she wants to be at the end, and how she wants any ceremony to be celebrated. Talk yo the celebrant, if any. Discover from the undertaker what they will need yo do and charge. Our local end of life care was outstanding and they had a brilliant leaflet which told you the signs of death and also what the undertakers would do, and how to register the death and what to do about cancelling pensions etc. see if your equivalent services can do that. As DM was dying at home, we had the local nurses giving her morphine. But they even gave us one night of respite care, when they provided a watcher. So we were able to sleep for one night which got us through the week.

Get people to visit her, as well as you. Get the DCs to send PCs.

Her body functions will break down, fast towards the end, but there is a lot of mess and pain before that. Get skin cream, to soften skin, and room fresheners. Get pretty things for her to enjoy and feel feminine when everything is shit. A lovely soft nightie, for example. She will need quite a few. Be prepared with lipsalve, thirst is dreadful.

That's rather stream of consciousness but hth.

missnevermind Sun 19-Jul-15 01:02:11

Mum died suddenly a fortnight ago I have found I difficult reading everybody's posts as they had time to talk before hand and I would have loved that.
Having just started to go through her stuff the big thing I would say at the moment is get out old photos really old ones where you don't recognise anybody and get her to tell you who is in them and where they were taken.
Mum has thousands of photos and now she has gone nobody really knows who the people are in them.
Also if you are finding it difficult to carry conversations it can be an easy thing to chat about.

overthemill Sun 19-Jul-15 11:28:29

Missnevermind - completely agree. My mum who I spoke of upthread died at age of 65 and it was very fast though at least it was a couple of months between diagnosis and death. We went through old photos too and I wrote names on back of them. She could only speak for a few weeks though so made it hard. Fast forward to this year and my dad died almost instantly and we didn't even get to say goodbye ( think he had fall/stroke in night). And it was sad though at least at a more 'proper' feeling age of 86. So one thing I would say to every person is talk to your loved ones while they are alive, tell,them you love them and share memories NOW. Don't wait.

Oly4 Sun 19-Jul-15 20:13:12

You are all so wonderful for sharing these experiences with me. It is helping hugely. Mum has masses of photo albums, I must get them out. Becusse she does t talk about dying much I've been reluctant to do this as it makes it seem final and I don't want her to think I am saying it is. It's difficult. But I don't want regrets so must do these things

Oly4 Sun 19-Jul-15 20:29:26

Sorry for typos!

ancientbuchanan Mon 20-Jul-15 14:33:30

It's a great thing to do with the DCs, getting them to look at photos of them or you or her as littlies.

juliascurr Mon 20-Jul-15 17:34:07

www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Health-and-social care/Independent-living

they loan out equipment which might help

hhuckabees Mon 20-Jul-15 17:40:18

It sounds selfish but take time for yourself. Having been in this situation myself, make sure you have time to process this and talk things through with someone, cry, ask questions etc. For me, that was the Macmillan helpline-I felt like I could attend to mum better when my thoughts were straight. flowers for you.

Dukketeater Mon 20-Jul-15 17:43:50

Give her a big hug and kiss everytime you leave as if it will be the last time you see her - I promise you that you won't regret doing so. And if you want to hug her, hold her hand etc during your visits, do it, don't just wait until it is time to leave, it will show her how loved she is.

Talk to her about anything an everything, ask her questions about her life you may not have known, simple things that you won't get to ask once she is gone.

If you can, take a photo of you & her now, it might be a painful reminder to see her looking ill once she is gone but it might not be and you won't know unless you have it. You can put it away if it does upset you.

Take her the paper, read it to her. Take her all sorts of things she likes, take your children to see her.

If you have an ipad or something she can use to read news and watch films on to pass the time when you are not there then take it. Will also keep you entertained as she gets closer to death and more of your visits are spent with her sleeping.

Visit as often an for as long as you can. You can catch up on sleep, work, social life etc once she has passed away. You won't regret spending so much time there but you might regret not spending enough time there.

Thats just from my experience of having lost two immediate family members to cancer recently... The first I didn't do as much of the above and felt sadder for so much longer, the second I did all I could and dealt with my grief better as a result and more peaceful.

I'm sorry your mother is ill x

Raspberriesandcream Sat 25-Jul-15 20:27:45

Oly4 - so sorry to hear that you and others on this thread have/are experiencing this. It's incredibly stressful and such an emotional rollercoaster - I hope you are also well supported too.
I recently lost my mum to Cancer and like you travelled on a regular basis to spend time with her. In the end I took a break from work, as I found the combination of work/toddler and travel between England and Scotland too much to cope with. I know not everyone has the luxury of being able to do this, but I am so glad that I got to spend valuable time with my Mum.
A friend who had been in a similar situation advised me to support my Mum in the way she wanted. She craved normality and didnt want us to dwell on her illness. I think sometimes when we know the end is approaching, we often stop living, which is an awful situation to be in. I remember when she was admitted to hospital, the doctors said that she had 4 weeks at best...but she went onto live for another 6 months. And I'm so grateful that she got to "live" a bit in her final months.
On a more practical note, I took lots of videos on my iPhone of my Mum doing normal things e.g. Playing with my toddler, family gatherings which are a HUGE comfort to me, as my biggest worry before she died was that I would forget so many things (I have a terrible memory).
As horrible as this time is for you, in some ways you are very lucky as you have the opportunity to tell your Mum anything your heart desires. My friend who lost her Mother unexpectantly never got to say her goodbyes and this troubled for a long time afterwards. It has helped me so much knowing that I got to say goodbye properly and tell Mum how wonderful she was how much she was dearly loved....guilt can trouble so many in the process of bereavement. I hope you can speak freely with your Mum so that guilt does not burden you afterwards.
I read a wonderful book called "Not the Last Goodbye" www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Last-Goodbye-Reflections-healing/dp/0230763723
It was written by a doctor who went onto specialise in psychiatry. He was affected by brain cancer and wrote this book in his final months and sensitively deals with issues concerning death and dying. It's beautifully written and is a short read - cannot recommend it enough.
Hope that helps OP.xx

Doilooklikeatourist Sat 25-Jul-15 20:56:58

My mum died of cancer 15 years ago

I was able to see her everyday in her last months , for which I am eternally grateful

My DS was only 6 when she died , and he wanted to give her a card ( he knew people gave get well soon cards ) He wanted to put money in it, ( like a birthday card ) Mum laughed so much when she pulled the fiver out

Don't be afraid to say to her how much you're going to miss her , how it's not fair , don't be afraid to cry with her

It's not fair , it's not right ( Mum said we'd been lucky , we'd always had a good relationship , no big fall outs )

Mum planned her funeral , she wanted a church service with an old family friend ( a vicar )
Then cremation

Macmillan nurses are amazing and so helpful

My condolences to you in this sad time

I cried every day for about 2 years , from when she was diagnosed as terminal , about 3 months before she died and afterwards

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