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Talking about sucide
Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 7:46 AM
Joined: 5/14/2022
Posts: 5

My mother has moderate dementia, along with my stepdad. 6 weeks ago, we had to move them from their home to live temporarily with my sister, due to more trouble managing everything— finances, food, bathing, etc. they lived across the country and are fiercely independent. We had been encouraging a move for the past 3 years. 
They refused to move to assisted living or memory care— which  they need, so are in an in-depth living apartment in a complex that has AL and memory care. 


Both have talked openly, for the past 30 years, of committing suicide at the end of their lives, so that they can be in charge of the time and place of their own death. My stepdad’s dementia has progressed so much that he doesn’t seem to remember this plan, isn’t talking about it, etc. my mom, on the other hand, keeps asking me to kill her when it gets too bad. I’m a physician, and she believes that I should be able to give her medical aide in dying ( of course I cannot).
We are working with a new physician and adjusting her medication for depression. We feel she is safe— can’t plan at this stage, no forearms available.  
I have not been able to say anything to get her distracted from this perseverative thought. I’ve tried things like, I’ll take care of you, let’s think about today, I need you to be around for me, etc. it’s a 20-30 minute conversation that just loops back to her wanting me to Jill her in the future. 
What do you lovely, experienced people suggest?

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 8:28 AM
Joined: 8/22/2020
Posts: 2514

Welcome to the forum.  I also am a physician, and my partner also many times said the same thing.  I recently had to put her in memory care, and she always expressed the wish to "just be shot" rather than live in such a setting.  We lived on a farm, and there were firearms available, but I locked them up.  And I don't think she ever was truly suicidal; other family experiences and her own background (master's in psychology) kept her from that.  Right now--a month into memory care--I can't even visit or talk to her because it is perseverative about going home, I am a trigger for her and have been advised to just stay away for now.

I have more empathy and understanding than suggestions.  I don't know if there's a way to just listen and not respond?  Or again, perhaps part of the solution is just to keep your distance while she adjusts.  Perhaps she does this more with you than your sister, because of the medical connection?  Maybe your sister needs to be the primary family connection right now, if that's possible.

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 10:53 AM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 20770

Boldly and said with love and understanding, I would suggest "listening". 

Your mother's feelings are understandable...she is in her senior ill, her husband has a horrible terminal illness, she has been uprooted. The future is not gay. It will be terribly hard to listen to suicide plans but...

Speaking only for myself  I hate the "Annie" approach....the sun will come out tomorrow. Instead please hear me, hold me close, be my rock. Do not make me put all my effert  into making you feel that I am OK because I am not. Allow me my sadness, my fears. Hear me before you offer a distraction.

Michael Ellenbogen
Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 11:03 AM
Joined: 11/30/2011
Posts: 4268

This is a very common theme among many with dementia. More then happy to speak to you about it.

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2022 10:47 PM
Joined: 10/10/2021
Posts: 629

Welsh, hi and welcome. The talking about suicide is nothing new coming from your mom as you said they have been saying this for 30 years. So your mom was saying this before dementia. I agree with what Jfkoc said. Just listen to your mom. That doesn’t mean you have to do anything. Just listen to her. 

A few years ago my husband became very suicidal. He was having severe panic attacks. I ended up having to call 911 to get help for him. He told the sheriff that got here before the ambulance, that he was going to do it and he told the medical people, even the doctors in the er. He ended up having to spend a week in a mental hospital. His doctors finally got him on the right meds that have helped him. He has Alzheimer’s and he also suffers from PTSD. Before all this he would never have even though about suicide. That was truly one of the scariest times of my life. 

Praying for you and your family! 

Posted: Monday, May 16, 2022 9:12 PM
Joined: 5/14/2022
Posts: 5

Thank you, everyone, so much for the suggestions. I know that many out there are going through something similar— just knowing that really helps. 

These conversations are happening by phone, and I’m fine with listening. She is looking for me to make some sort of statement. My go to statements are “I love you. I know your wishes and I’ll do everything I can to help you.” She wants me to say the words “I will kill you so you don’t suffer.” I can’t say it, even if I know it’s a lie. 

I think she is having some sundowning and these thoughts are more common at night. So I avoid calling her after dinner, so that I’m not triggering her. 

Wishing everyone here and their loved ones peace  


Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2022 8:15 AM
Joined: 4/17/2018
Posts: 641

Welsh022 hearing those words is very hard I agree with listening and affirming them best you can. I hate hearing my dw say words about ending it. She says she's a chicken and couldn't do it. I hate this disease.
Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2022 9:32 AM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 20770

ways to respond

Posted: Saturday, May 21, 2022 3:33 PM
Joined: 5/21/2022
Posts: 21

My MIL talks about suicide also. She has always been very independent and active, and now that she is in the later stages of Alzheimers she has periods where she absolutely despises her sedentary lifestyle, but is too frequently hostile, aggressive, or delusional to have a more active lifestyle. That lifestyle, which, I could provide for her, as her caregiver, if she was able to cooperate with me. However, she does not often recognize me or is so suspicious of me that it is hazardous to try to exercise her.