Ask Jennifer: Week ending 4/13

Updated: 04/08/2014 7:53 AM
Created: 03/30/2010 2:51 PM WHEC.com

Dear Jennifer,

The hospital is killing my mother. I’m mad and sad and frustrated and I start crying so easy – I never used to be like that. I’m ready to crawl out of my skin. The doctors are trying to tell me my mother is declining and is beyond help. She broke her hip and now they wonder if they should even put her through surgery. They say she could die in 2 weeks or 2 months. I asked if she had cancer or anything, and they said, no, it’s Failure to Thrive. She’s 91 years old and I feel like everyone has given up on her, even my brother who is Health Care Proxy.  She isn’t eating much and my brother has started her on Hospice Care. I don’t agree at all. She was doing just fine before she broke her hip. Her memory was slipping, but I visited with her every day and talked to her and she would smile at me. I had to work hard to get a meal in her every day, I admit that, but now the nurses aren’t even trying!  

She has been real sick before and she always came back.  I’m the only one who believes she can do it. I’m not her health care proxy and my mother signed a DNR form and said she didn’t want to be kept alive if she wasn’t eating or drinking, but I don’t think she’s ready to go. I think she’d want to fight. I checked with a lawyer who said there isn’t much I can do about all this and to see a counselor.  I’m not the one who needs help! My mother does!!!

I’m desperate; please help me and my mother!


Dear Pamela,

I have not seen your mother and therefore am not able to judge her situation. When I look at the information you provided, I see that your mother has been having progressive memory change. I see that she is not eating well enough to sustain her body. And I see that doctors who earn their incomes performing surgery have stated they do not think it is appropriate in your mother’s situation.

Your mother, on her part, has made it known that she does not want to be kept alive artificially, she wants nature to take its course.  It is quite possible that your mom is fading due to “old age.” Her mind, her skeleton and her digestive track are failing her. I imagine she has lost considerable weight. There comes a point in this process where the person’s cells begin failing on their own, past the point of reversal. And, in your mother’s situation, anesthesia could throw her into a delirium or compromise her health further and possibly cause death. If your mother’s health could improve it would: she would become thirsty and hungry and accept food and fluids.

I am a nurse. I am not a doctor. The first thing I recommend is a second opinion from another doctor. If this doctor concurs with the previous findings, this is enough to convince me that the right decisions are being made. You are already grieving the loss of your dear mother, this is part of the feelings you are experiencing. Your mom needs you to accept her life’s journey and be there for her.  Can you do that?  If you find yourself angry that I am making these suggestions, I urge you to talk to your own doctor about this.  

It sounds like your mother must have been a remarkable woman who enriched your life. It is up to your mom’s body and spirit to determine whether she can come back to you. It must be hard for her too, to imagine she is leaving you.  She would want you to accept and understand if you can.



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