Confused by my Nana. She seems better but is at end of life

Hi All

I am new to the group. We look after my 95 year old Nana as my Dad passed away some years ago and was an only child. To be fair, she doesn’t take much looking after as she’s quite independent usually and very alert.

The current situation is that she is in hospital due to a chest infection which started before Christmas. Over the last few weeks she has been really poorly and the infection turned into pneumonia and also her heart, lungs and kidneys started to fail and her lungs filled up with fluid. She also had a minor heart attack whilst in hospital. During this time she has been unresponsive and sleepy, struggling to breathe, refusing food and drinks, confused and unaware of us being there or who we are. The doctor told us last week that we will have less than 2 weeks with her. But since the weekend she is sitting up in bed, chatting, eating, drinking, remembering who we are and asking to see my Nieces and Nephews. My Sister and I were wondering if the doctors had made a mistake but they assure us that they haven’t and that her time is still limited. Visiting her last night she was the best she has been in ages and seemed so well and her breathing seemed normal. I know she is on a lot of medication but how she is now is making the prospect of her being at the end of her life so much harder to accept. Has anyone else ever been in this situation and is it normal for someone to pick up before they pass away?

Any advice at this difficult time would be much appreciated.

Thank you.

My mum spent the last year of her life in a nursing home, as she was physically very frail, then had a series of mini strokes. Some days she was confused, couldn’t remember the names of flowers (she was a keen gardener), almost lifeless in bed, the next day sat up in bed chatty and normal.
I would suggest that you prepare for the worst - find out about local funeral directors charges so that when the time comes, yo are prepared for that - but at the same time enjoy your time with nana.
I Googled “Signs of Dying” with tears rolling down my cheeks one day. I suggest you do the same. You will find lots of information written by people from the hospice movement explaining how the body slowly shuts down, which will help you understand more about things. Mum died 3 years later.
It’s very confusing for all concerned, you might have days, weeks, or even years.
Do not wear yourself out by visiting constantly, it’s very draining, it’s a bit like an emotional rotller coaster ride.
All you can do is make sure that she knows she is loved.

Thank you bowlingbun. Sorry for the loss of your Mum.

You are correct. It is like a rollercoaster and has been very difficult. I have visited her every day since she has been in hospital and soon I have to go away due to work commitments and am panicking about not being nearby at this time.

I appreciate your advice.

Don’t visit every day, when you leave, tell her when you will be back.
Maybe think about buying her something personal, like some lovely smelling hand or body cream, so that when you are not there, she has a reminder of you.
When I’ve been in hospital, I used to get very thirsty, as it’s a hot dry atmosphere. The family kept me well supplied with small, kid size fruit juices that can fit in the locker.
You need to work, it’s a fact of life, and nothing you can say or do will change what happens next, that is up to her body I’m afraid, whether it has enough strength to fight to get well, or a battle it cannot win.

Before you go away, make sure you and your sister have agreed which funeral director you will use, and explained the situation to them, and told the hospital.

This is part of life we don’t like to think about, but it’s much better to face it and make plans in advance, than end up trying to make arrangements after a sudden death. Sadly, my husband died unexpectedly from a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 58. Your nan has had a “good innings”, almost 40 years more.

Hello and welcome!

Google your nearest palliative care team in the area. Ask for a referral pronto. Also get in contact with a good local funeral planner to discuss your options.

Reduce your visits. What you need to do is visit her only once a week maybe? Make sure that she has everything which she needs. Do not make any vague promises but say that you will return. Is she happy there or not?

End of life time is a strange thing! Some people go just as doctors tell you. Others perk up and can seem well and nearly recovered. It’s traumatic for all concerned. It’s a case of going with the flow. Family members/friends need to keep visits going on a rotation. Rather than everyone turn up all the time together. Although to keep in mind the uncertainty of when will it happen.

Doctors will have your Nan’s medical information / notes and will know through experience what is ahead. I think as we hear professional don’t always get it right. We rightly question everything.

What an amazing age your Nan is try and make end of life memories. See all as positive as possible share child hood stories.

Also consider Nan may well be aware of what is happening. And wants all to visit before it to late to say goodbye.

Thank you all for the advice. I was visiting every day but didn’t go last night and am not going tonight either which feels strange but also gives me time to stop for a moment and get my head around everything. I will buy some things for her to take up tomorrow and see how she’s doing then. In the meantime, she has been visited by other family members so not been on her own.

The hospital informed us yesterday that they would prefer to discharge her for the remaining time she has left to somewhere where they specialise in palliative care so we are now researching our options in that area and I am trying to arrange a visit to a local hospice this weekend. I’m not sure how much she is aware of or whether it’s best to tell her the truth or not.

Palliative care ?

NHS : What end of life care involves - NHS

Marie Curie ( Charity ) : What is palliative care?

Which? : Changes to Which? Later Life Care - Which?

Leave whether or not to tell her up to the medical profession, IF they think they need to.