How can I comfort my dying mil?

(39 Posts)
Eggsbutnobacon Tue 11-Oct-16 22:59:02

My mil is in palliative care suffering from terminal lung cancer. I visit her every morning with dh and he returns to see her on his own in the early evening.

I really really want to be the best support I can both to her and my dh. I know how it feels as I lost both my parents to cancer. So how come I struggle with what to say both to her when she knows she is dying and to my dh who is the strong silent type who has always tried to put a positive spin on any problems in life but just can't now. His dm is dying. How can I support him and help him get through watching her slow decline and say anything to make him feel better? I don't know what to say that isn't going to sound twee or trivial.

I sit at her bedside and chat about mundane things, what she has had to eat and what the dc have been up to. I make sure every request is seen to and will scour the shops to take her what she asks for. I offer to massage her hands, which are skin and bone bless her but I just don't feel I'm doing enough.

When my dm was dying at home my dsil ( a retired nurse) knew exactly what to say and was always comforting and reassuring to my dm and to the whole family.
I just feel useless.

Sosidges Wed 12-Oct-16 08:16:36

What you are doing is amazing. I lost my mum after a long illness, last Winter. You being there for her, talking to her and getting things she wants. I don't think your MiL could ask for more. Please don't be so hard on yourself. I spent my time with my mum without family support. I guess that your OH is so,relieved that you are helping him through this.

Helenluvsrob Wed 12-Oct-16 12:30:02

Eggs you are doing fine sweetie .

What I didn't get to do when my mum was dying , because for some reason she lost her voice and then her brain faded a bit too, was to ask her what she wanted to do. I'd have loved to have done that.

You are meeting all her requests but how about suggesting some things she might not have thought of....

There might be people to see /contact/skype. Places to go. etc OK flying to the states isn't possible but I've had dying people I know who's family have taken them in a hired camper van to Ireland to see family. Daft funny stuff to do- you can still make memories and they can be good ones - meds /drivers ( if she's at that stage) can be adjust around things. We took my Dad to the safari park when he was really quite far down the dime with his dementia but not actively dying. That was really good for us and for him.

If you can get her in the car and out ( hire a wheelchair or buy one they are cheap really) go to a garden centre or similar for a cuppa and nibble of cake. We liked M+S proscecco bar with dad as it was " drive up" for the wheelchair and heck the proscecco made him smile smile

Would she like a tea party to see her friends again ? Like an " un birthday" ?

Also you or DH should have a frank chat to make sure she's happy she's got her affairs in order. Does she have a will ? Would she like to plan the funeral with you, if not that's fine but do ask. I've looked after dying people a lot at work. You'd be surprised how often these things aren't sorted an actually they want to do them but " don't want to upset the family" by asking.

Just random thoughts but you are doing so well. Much hugs

Eggsbutnobacon Wed 12-Oct-16 20:44:50

Thank you both for your kind thoughts and suggestions.

Sadly she is past the stage of even getting out of the hospital bed and finds it painful to move. She has a morphine pump and a catheter.
Yesterday I noticed she was a lot more dreamy and her eyes looked different. It made me feel so sad.
She has been so stoic, planning her funeral and even reprimanding my fil for trying to do without funeral cars for the family! I don't know how people do it, I really don't.

Yoarchie Wed 12-Oct-16 20:49:43

I know that what my MIL wants after she is gone is for her grown up children and grandchildren to be looked after in some way/be safe/belong to a family. I'm married to one of my MIL's sons. She asked me if I would make sure the other son is OK (he's in his forties, she didn't mean for me to "look after" him, she meant look out for him. So I will. My MIL also told me what she wants done with her ashes etc. She is really ill, but she doesn't have any sort of formal terminal diagnosis.

YesILikeItToo Wed 12-Oct-16 20:52:06

I don't know, but I'd pass this on - we put the radio on to radio 3 in my father's final days and I wished we'd done it earlier. It was just a nice background, for him and for us when we weren't talking.

Littleelffriend Wed 12-Oct-16 20:52:24

Could you read to her? A favourite book? My mum was fine then declined so quickly I didn't really get to do anything. Or play music? Go through photos?

PotteringAlong Wed 12-Oct-16 20:55:12

Record her voice. It might never be listened to again, but your DH and FiL will have it.

You sound fabulous flowers

phoria Thu 13-Oct-16 01:17:16

OP when my mum was dying she was most comforted by massages and ice cream. she was too tired to talk and there's not much more you can say at that stage. you just being there is probably comfort enough.

second the suggestion to record her voice. maybe you could record her saying a birthday message for your dh and fil? and for other special occasions like xmas? and maybe for your dc or future dc if you don't have any yet. i wish i had done this.

QuimReaper Thu 13-Oct-16 01:35:29

I just want to say you sound lovely OP and Ike you're doing fantastically.

echt Thu 13-Oct-16 06:47:28

Some wonderful suggestions here.

Eggs, your being there is the thing, those little things, the chit chat is all good. I feel it's privilege to attend the dying and a blessing to have a loving person there. You're that person.

flowers

tattychicken Thu 13-Oct-16 06:55:10

I believe that the sense of smell is one of the last senses to shut down when a person is dying. When my Nan was dying, my Mum bathed her in (her favourite) lavender water. Could you do something similar, massage her hands with her favourite fragranced hand cream? Read to her, poems, stories, bits out of the daily newspaper. Don't worry too much about "getting it right ". Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job. X

ThumbWitchesAbroad Thu 13-Oct-16 06:55:58

I agree, you're doing a great thing for her just being there with her, touching her, talking to her, listening to her if she can speak.
I also agree that it would be a good idea to get her voice on recording if you can - one of my sadnesses is that my mum was intubated and on a ventilator for the last week of her life, so couldn't speak - and as that had happened very suddenly, and we weren't aware of how short her remaining time was, we didn't have anything recent of her speaking.

Keep doing what you're doing - you are helping xx thanks

Eggsbutnobacon Thu 13-Oct-16 18:17:22

Again, thank you all.

She always had nicely painted nails so today I asked if she would like me to do them and she agreed but said as long as they weren't going to be the same colour as mine ( sparkly purple!). So tonight I have given my dh a selection to take down to the hospital so she can choose which one she would like and I'll do them tomorrow. Although I told my dh there was no reason why he couldn't do them!

She said today she just wants to go and added " I wonder what it will be like". My dh said " what do you mean mum?" I knew what she meant and she said " heaven". I told her nobody knows but she will meet her mum again.
Dh and I both cried together in the car driving back home.

Whateveryouwannacallme Thu 13-Oct-16 18:37:04

lots of great ideas already.. but as others said already you are doing great talking.. and more important listening to her. I think its great too when you acknowledge her talking about dying and its process... and not ignore or deny that she is. Some people seem to almost need "permission" to leave this world rather than fight to stay for loved ones. I hope you all find peace xx

OrianaBanana Thu 13-Oct-16 18:50:02

Is she religious at all? (She talked of heaven) If so a chaplain or priest etc. might bring her comfort. It was suggested that my MIL might want a priest to visit, but given she was anti-religious I didn't think it would help at all, in fact would probably have upset her x

OrianaBanana Thu 13-Oct-16 18:51:06

She found comfort in reliving old memories - closing her eyes and imagining herself back there, in peaceful and happy times.

Eggsbutnobacon Thu 13-Oct-16 19:10:31

My dh has just returned.
He says she has looked at him but not spoken at all for the hour he was there. He has spoken to the sister who says they are not sure if she is deteriorating or if it is psychological. I wasn't sure what that meant but apparently the mind can start shutting down before the body, I just don't know. He has left the nail varnish on her side table ( her little domain where everything has its place) and I will still do her nails tomorrow.

Thank you for the suggestion about a priest or chaplain. I will put that idea to my fil tomorrow. She has never been a church goer but often mentioned in the past that she has said a little prayer for somebody.

chattygranny Thu 13-Oct-16 19:15:37

I also read to my DM when she was dying, poems which had meant a lot to her and my late DF. My mIL died of cancer when my DH was only 30, we were very good friends but like you I couldn't think of what to say, especially as my FIL was in denial that she was dying. So I just held her hand and we sat in silence. Honestly, just being there is enough, you are doing a great job. We also had the chaplain / minister in and I think that gave great comfort to the dying and the family.

OrianaBanana Thu 13-Oct-16 19:41:15

I think if there's a hospice chaplain they are usually v experienced and comforting with this sort of thing.

Kr1stina Thu 13-Oct-16 19:55:43

The hospice or hospital will have their own chaplain , they are all very experienced and are happy to visit patients of any faith or none. It doesn't matter if you MIL is a church goes or not .

So if you MIL says she woudl like this, please ask the staff and they will contact the Chaplain .

Even if you MIL cant talk, she can probably still hear and understand . She may like to hear you reading something or favourite music. She might like some of her perfume on her hand or handcream, aftre you havedone her nails.

justpeachy74 Thu 13-Oct-16 20:12:48

It sounds as if you are doing a wonderful job for your MIL Eggs.
I'm afraid that we will soon be in a similar position to you with my MIL. I'm very sad about it. This post has raised some really good ideas on how to be there for DH & MIL as we go on.

ThumbWitchesAbroad Sun 16-Oct-16 09:35:14

It is quite usual for people in her position to just want to go; it all becomes too much. My mum took out her own feeding tube because she'd had enough - it signified that she wanted it all to end.

And yes, good idea for a chaplain - Mum had never been very religious, but she asked for the Cof E Chaplain to come (she had to write her request because of the intubation) on her last day, and I think it helped her. The hospital she was in had access to 2 or 3 chaplains of different denominations/faiths so she had that choice.

Hope she likes having her nails done xx

tattychicken Sun 16-Oct-16 11:28:43

Doing her nails is a great idea, how lovely. X

Eggsbutnobacon Mon 17-Oct-16 03:57:42

I visited Friday morning ( just dh goes at the weekend as I have the dc to look after) and she had chosen the clear varnish. As I was doing her nails a therapist came in and asked if she wanted a massage which she declined. I jokingly said I would have one instead.

I just stroked her hand for ages which she said felt lovely and I noticed how cold it felt. I feel so sad. Its as if we've developed a closer relationship during these last few weeks. She gave me and dh little notes she had written. She wouldn't be capable of that now. Just drifts in and out of sleep, occasionally saying things which don't make sense.
I just want it to be over, but feel so guilty for thinking that.

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