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Death and Dying
Old 08-04-2007, 07:27 PM   #1
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Death and Dying

My 91-year old grandmother died July 26th. I loved her dearly and I will miss her very much. I have lived away from my hometown (Seattle) for many years. I didn't get to see her as often as I wanted, but I always stopped to see her when I was in Seattle and I was able to be there for her last two days.

She had lived in her own home until about 18 months ago when she moved into a wonderful assisted living facility, Park Vista. The only reason we managed to get her out of her home was because she grew fed up with the cost and quality of home care. As we all expected, she loved Park Vista. Her nickname was "the mayor" because she loved to sit in the public area and visit with everyone who wandered by.

She had to move to a nursing home (scary name but a wonderful facility) around July 4th because she had fallen several times and could not reliably walk on her own anymore. I was in Seattle over July 4th weekend and visited her but I could see her health was declining quickly. I was already scheduled to return to Seattle on July 26th but changed it to July 24th after learning Grandma was refusing food and liquids.

I was the only family member who visited her for any length of time during her final days when it was obvious she was dying. I have two cousins (both with flexible schedules) and an aunt and uncle (retired) who all live very close (within 30 minutes) to the nursiing home who could have easily visit her daily. My one cousin had to arrange for her move to the nursing home but never visited her there. My aunt and uncle came to the nursing home for a quick visit the day before her death.

Is it normal for family members to ignore the dying member and have other people handle it? The nursing home staff treated me and my grandmother with love and compassion but where was the rest of my family I felt honored to be able to sit and hold my grandmother's hand and give her a kiss during her last hours. The only regret I have is that I went back to the hotel to eat and sleep when I knew the time was close and I was not with her when she died.

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Old 08-04-2007, 07:56 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing your story. My condolences on your grandmother's passing.

People treat death and dying many different ways. I think that many people do not come into contact with a dying person until they are old themselves. It's not something that is taught in schools and sometimes families shield the young from the death of older relatives.

When I was younger, I worked in a hospital. I saw a few people die. I remember a wife sitting by her husband's bedside on his last night alive. She went home about midnight and I gave her a look. He died in his sleep that night. In the morning, she saw me and cried, "You knew! You knew! Why didn't you tell me!" and started beating on me. It was a powerful experience for me ... one of many I've had with death over the years.

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Old 08-04-2007, 08:25 PM   #3
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My condolences. Death is very hard for some people to deal with. Each person treats someone's decline differently. Some just can't deal with it at all and it seems almost as if they don't look it isn't happening.

I have heard my grandparents speaking of people in the past dying at home surrounded by family. It is often very different now.

Don't beat yourself up for not knowing the exact time that she was going to pass. I am sure your grandmother really appreciated having you there with her the last days of her life.
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Old 08-04-2007, 09:22 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Buckeye View Post
...The only regret I have is that I went back to the hotel to eat and sleep when I knew the time was close and I was not with her when she died.
My condolences on your loss. It's never easy to lose a loved one, and I'm sure being with her in her final days was a great comfort to you.

But don't beat yourself up on the fact that you weren't with her when she passed. I've heard many stories about folks who appeared to hold on in their final hours until a particular family member or friend visited them before dying...and I've also heard from medical staffers who've observed patients about to die who seemingly waited until the family/friends were not in the room as if to save them from being there at the final moment.

The important thing is you were there when she needed you the most.
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Old 08-04-2007, 09:46 PM   #5
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It was a blessing to spend those last days with my grandmother. Her passing has really made me think how long I want to wait to be back in the same city (or even state) as my mother who is 73. We live about two hours from my 93-year old MIL (in great health) so that works for now. My MIL was "visited" by my grandmother (they have never met) and my MIL alerted me to my grandmother's grave condition which caused me to call my uncle to get an update.

While I was sitting with my grandmother, one of the nursing home staff said "every moment spent with a dying person is a moment of grace." It was a wonderful thing to hear when I was feeling so sad. I took flowers and a "thank you" card to the nursing home staff the day after grandma's death to thank them for the their wonderful care of both me and grandma.
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Old 08-05-2007, 01:36 AM   #6
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You have my sympathy. You asked if it was normal for relatives to ignore people who are passing away. At least in my experience, the answer is yes. My MIL spent the last 18 months of her life with us. In the time, of my wife's five siblings, only one came down to help out for any period of time. Needless to say, she is also the only one coming out for the family reunion.

The others had to be nagged to come out. They all made it out for a Christmas and didn't stay around long. The one sister managed to make it out to Disneyland four times. Once the MIL asked to be taken but they ignored her, even the sister who was helping took off leaving us. The one BIL never even showed up at all except for the last week. He took a lot of pictures and put together a slideshow for her funeral. It seemed like they had been there all the time.

Don't regret not being there when she died. My friend who works in hospice says that many times people prefer to die alone. She will send the family out for coffee and the patient will pass over while they are gone. This happened with my MIL, they had been sitting up with her and left at 5 am to get some sleep. She passed away shortly after they left. So, don't feel bad for not being around, it could be your grandmother didn't want you to see it.
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Old 08-05-2007, 08:33 AM   #7
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Condolences. A loss of a close family member is always tough. She was fortunate to be able to stay healthy enough to live by herself or in assisted living as long as she did. We just moved my 89yo MIL to live with us. She was living in her own home until 3-4 years ago, when she needed home care. You're right, the cost is quite high, and we had uneven caretakers. So we flew with her 1500 miles and she now lives with us. We had to install a couple of stair lifts and get handicapped item for the bathrooms and other rooms, but so far so good. Her mind is sharp, she just can't walk due to diabetes. We cross our fingers that we won't have to place her in a nursing home. I'm glad you had a good experience, but it's always a chance. Plus the expense of a nh is incredible, over 100k a year where we live.

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