Loading discussion content. Please wait...
My Father is asking to be killed
I'm just heartbroken. I took a leave from work to try and have the most time and energy possible for what I know will be my Father's last holiday. Last night my Mother and Father came over for New Year's dinner - I made so many of his favorites. My Children (15 and 11) were angels with him (and my Mother) these last several weeks. We have helped decorate, undecorate, gave meaningful gifts - and I thought - had very meaningful moments. But, just like that, poof, he is asking for us to "hire a gang" to kill him. My friends and DH are awesome, but I feel like I am exhausting them with horrific conversation after horrific conversation. I am at a loss. Sometimes I find myself musing on how to help him die. I know he wants to. But, it is hard to imagine that he can feel this way after all the love and support he has. It is when things just don't make sense that I feel darkest. I know it can't make sense. I know it is not "him", I understand the disease more than I want to (I'm a clinical psychologist with a specialty in diagnostics and assessment) - but it doesn't change the physical hurt I'm experiencing. Tonight I've put on sweats, asked DH to heat up leftover (amazing) food from last night's feast and I'm going to watch The Crown and have some wine. When I think about it, the reality of what he says he wants, I literally can't breathe.
My Father is still in the home. We, ironically, had an appointment set today with Stanford Adult Aging Services to get things rolling for more supports, higher level of care, etc., and they had to cancel due to illness.
I searched past posts and could not easily find any recent threads about this. Feeling alone. My family relies on me for everything - because of my profession, personality, and that I have a sibling who is not involved/helpful. (I'm so sick of hearing that my Brother is just "dealing in his own way").
I'm running a losing race.
I would appreciate anyone's experiences/advice on how they have handled it when their LO asks to die.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Wow, so much of what you wrote resonated with me. I'm sorry I don't have experience on the suicidal thoughts, just commiseration on the whole picture. Assisted suicide with dementia is something that has come up in my support groups and other veins of conversation and it's so fraught with complication and yet understandable. Your father probably doesn't see the love and support he has. His whole view on reality is compromised due to the disease. I guess if it were my LO I would be looking at medications to make him more comfortable in the current place and time. When it comes to dementia, if something is affecting quality of life I'm in the better living through chemistry camp. I'm guessing others will come along with experience with asking to die. The search function on this site doesn't work very well and I think I remember seeing posts about this in the past.
When the reality of my mom's Alz set in I had so many moments where if I thought to much about it I couldn't breathe. So many nights crying and ruminating. My supportive DH didn't know how to help, because until you've walked in these shoes it's hard to comprehend. I eventually got kind of used to the new normal and plateaued emotionally. Then we moved her to a facility and it's the same thing all over. Until recently I was the only local sibling and the burden can feel very overhwhelming. I've had the same thing where you try hard, you give dementia your all, you give your LO your all, and it feels like it's for nothing. I try to just remember that I'm living the way my mom taught me to live. Responsibly and with compassion and doing what needs to be done.
I have found in person support groups to be quite helpful, since anyone who hasn't experienced it just doesn't know how to relate despite their best intentions. I joined a gym, because sometimes literally the only thing I can do is blow off steam working out. I've tried my hardest to practice self care (and succeeding like 20% of the time but better than nothing.) I try to focus on the things I can change or influence, and sometimes they have little to do with my LO. Unfortunately. Best wishes to you and your family. It's a hard journey, and your folks are lucky to have such a loving daughter.
Thank you so much. I had tears of relief reading your thoughtful response. I have been very taken aback by the physical nature of my grief. My DH is at a loss too. He wants to help but there is no formula for this pain.
Thank you for sharing - you have helped my burden a bit tonight, which means a lot.
Thank you for sharing. It makes a lot of sense and I do fail to look at things from my Father's perspective, often. I fall into the feeling that he is still him - because that it comforting for me. While there are glimmers, I am accepting that he is really quite gone. It becomes so feelingless - decisions, and tasks, and movements. Helping my Mother determine her next steps. Helping my Children grieve their Grandfather and Friend. So much is to do for others, we lose ourselves in this process.
In the past, my Father would have been overjoyed with the effort and the meal and been over the top with compliments. You are right, he does not see the world the same way.
Thank you, again, for you insights. Very helpful.
MPSorci, we have several things in common. I didn't get any help from siblings, my family always came to me for everything, I felt alone, tired, and also knew I was running a losing race. I was doing in home care with my father. I did everything I possibly could to make him comfortable in his home.
One day we were almost having a party at the house, with several care team members, my son, my daughter, dad and myself. We were laughing and telling stories when it started. Dad looked at my son and said, "Are you looking forward to 90?" My son said, "Well Grandpa, are you talking 90 degrees, or 90 years old?" Dad answered, "90 years old." Luke said, "Well I don't know Grandpa, I haven't gotten there yet." And that's when my dad said, "Well let me tell you it's not good." then he started lamenting all the things he had lost in life. He listed reading, golfing, bowling, dancing, my mom, and enjoying travel. For the remainder of the day he was talking about his past, we talked about nursing homes, and he asked questions about death. We all tried, to the best of our ability, to engage and answer his questions. I will admit, there were times I had to go outside to cry privately. It was more than I could bare. In my book, this day warranted a chapter titled, Reflections. I still have a hard time reading that chapter without tears.
By the end of the night, he was asking what death would feel like, how he'd know where to go, and trying to decide is there was someone who would come for him. It was heartbreaking. Then he got very quiet for a while, and finally said, "Well, I'm ready to die now." I knew with all my heart, my father meant it. He was always such a positive person, very happy and always had a funny observation. Now I know that we always want to say that this is the disease talking. But it wasn't. It was my father, being very realistic, admitting where life had taken him, and acknowledging that he didn't want THIS any more. If death with dignity had been an option, I'd have talked with him the next day, called his physician, planned a family dinner later that week, and given my father a cocktail, to end the life he was ready to leave. Could I have done it? Yes. I loved my father with all my heart. There isn't anything I wouldn't have done for him. EVER. And if that meant setting myself and my grief on a shelf, and surrendering to his desire and need, yes I would have done it. But that wasn't an option we had. So I continued. It was nearly another 2 years before my father died. And no one should ever have to go through the end stages of this disease. But he did, with me supporting.
There is something that I think we all need to remember, when helping a person to their death. At times they feel alone, sometimes scared, they know (to some degree) what's coming. And rarely do they have someone to talk to about their feelings. It's important that we listen, allow them the opportunity to be heard, open up and talk about the things that are important to them. Allow them to share their feelings and concerns. Let them know that we will do everything possible to support their wishes. And share your feelings while you still can, because someday you won't be able to.
I know how this hurt to hear what your dad said. Use it to the best of your ability, to connect, listen, understand, and support where he's at. Nothing can change what this disease has done to him. But you can be his advocate, and let him know that he will not walk this road alone. In my mind, that's the kindest thing we can do as caregivers for the people we love. It's difficult as all get out. But no one could ask for better, than to have a friend who will be there in our darkest times.
Hugs are coming your way,
Hello and a very warm welcme to you Melissa. I am very sorry for what is happening and can well understand the concern, stress and grief this is bringing to you. I apologize in advance as this is a bit long, but there is much to share.
I am an RN with a Masters who also is the family "go-to," and was the primary carer, etc. for my Loved Ones (LOs) with dementia. It is certainly a difficult place to be as it is not a sprint; but rather a marathon where someone keeps moving the goal line. When new to the dynamics, it is especially difficult, but we do learn.
There I was; all the education, professional experience in the acute hospital setting including working with dementia patients; but I soon learned that all the experience and education meant not much when dementia entered the home in my personal life. I soon found myself flying by the seat of my pants just like everyone else, and to make matters worse; I was from a profession where the entire idea is to "fix it."
One of the biggest errors I made when being a "newbie" primary carer, was to somehow not recognize that despite my LO being still high functioning, there were significant changes within the brain that made nothing the same and though initially difficult to grasp; that became more evident over time.
Despite the ability to function well; and with all my good intentions, when it was already a fait accompli, I did not recognize that judgment, reasoning and processing was already highly compromised. My good intentions on several fronts did not always bring good results.
Structure and routine in daily environment are crucial best friends for the person with dementia. It is safe; it is not affecting processing and emotions. Change is the enemy. Big time. Social gatherings, activity, noise, etc. are all upsetting to the person with dementia and for my LO that upset and negative turn could last for days into weeks.
I thought a lovely birthday party; going out to lunch; finding activities because I thought my LO too sedentary and not doing much to stay occupied was a negative. Little did I realize how wrong I was. I was judging by how my "normal" brain would feel; NOT by my LOs changes because I did not realize or recognize how much had already changed.
Also, it is very important to have a good dementia specialist as well as a good primary MD who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. A clinic setting can bring confirmation for accuracy of type of dementia which is crucial, rule out other problem issues and provide some information and resources . . . . BUT . . . . after that, the clinic setting environment can be threatening to our LOs and sometime there will be resistance to going as the high level of activity is threatening.
NOTE: It is also important to realize that depression is also an issue for many persons with dementia. You will want to have this screened by the professionals your father will be seeing. That is treatable.
It is also true that anxiety can be a problem issue. I noted this especially when my LO was around a lot of activity which was internally upsetting. Our LOs cannot process input like they used to, so when anxietious which can be physically and mentally uncomfortable; they want to escape those feelings and it may come out in a different sort of way such as wanting to die or to have someone kill them or looking to "go home." They are looking for relief and cannot accurately problem solve or process or plan for that relief; the broken brain simply throws out what is most familiar at that time.
We tend to expect too much of ourselves seometimes; especially because of our professions and because our families rely on us. Good that you took some "down time," that is what I learned to do too. My space was to drive to the ocean and just sit listening to the waves breaking on the shore; smelling that wonderful salt/kelp smell; watching the gulls playing on the air currents and letting the breeze brush across me. I could feel my shoulders coming down from up around my ears into their correct anatomical position again. For me; there was no long vacation; just short times of respite. Also, a good book or film and chocolate in a private setting.
I also had to learn to cut myself some slack. I could NOT cure or forestall this; I could permit myself to grieve and also to cut myself some slack when once in a great while I was a bit impatient and non-therapeutic. I learned to use therapeutic fibs which are not a moral lapse, but a kindness to my LO so there were no meltdowns, etc.
My sib was not going to be involved at all; so rather than feel umbrage I let go of that and mentally considered myself an only child for the duration. Much easier that way.
I began to work at the structure and routine; found a wonderful aide who could assist. I also learned to not involve my LO too much decision making or planning or in "facts," and in day to day operational stuff. Routine, structure, an uncluttered non-noise environment and safety as perceived by a compromised brain and not my viewpoint.
We learn as we go along and also, coming here to this place kept my nose above water. I also would like to give you the number of the Alzheimer's Assn. Helpline at (800) 272-3900. If you call, please ask to be transferred to a Care Consultant. There are no fees for this service. Consultants are highly educated Social Workers who spccialize in dementia and family dynamics. They are very supportive, have much information and can also assist with some of our problelm solving.
I send warmest thoughts your way. We are all here in support of one another and that now includes you too! Do let us know how you are, we truly do care.
I am in a similar situation with my MIL. She is having a difficult time and so are my husband and I. My MIL is a very nasty person but we have had her in our home for over a year. We know this is where she will stay, but how do we deal with her constantly thinking we dont qant her here. How do we deal with her child like tantrums? I know in my head it is the dementia talking and her therapist frustration with it too. I can only handle so much grief from her. She has never really liked me, her son and I have been married for 21 years. She is an alcoholic, and finally started going to AA. I am trying my hardest to understand from her perspective, but when she blows up it ends up in a huge fight. Then its " I'm sorry dont put me in a home, just put me out of my misery."
It is so hard when she is so negative and nasty, but we still want to take care of her. She has COPD as well she is suppose to be on her oxygen but most days refuse to take it with her. She is still in early diagnosis and we are working with her neurologist, but home life is difficult with her.
How do I get through this with her? She is constantly thinking we hate her, we dont want her here. It's not the case but it is so aggravating to keep explaining, and fighting. I try not to but she pushes so hard we end up in fights.
Sorry I'm still new to taking care of someone who has dementia, and being always so negative.
Thanks for listening.
I agree with you. I had a friend die from cancer recently. When it became too much, she asked to die and was able to - on her terms and with dignity. It is such a disputed arena of discourse. With Alzheimer's so much is lost and sometimes, in my Father's case, so fast, that it is impossible in our current system to go "on record" regarding your wishes. It certainly leaves friends and family reeling.
Thank you for your support,
Thank you for your help, I do appreciate it.
His Daughter -
Your response is both hopeful and challenging. As I read I felt how much our situations have in common - however, I was so blown away to know that after all you described your Father had two more years of this illness. I wish there was a fairy tale way to end this for every one - like a movie. But, it does not seem that is in the cards.
I am really going to take your advice to heart - listening and asking about his wishes, while I can. Thank you for that gift.
Thank you for responding. I really appreciate your comments about the blurriness between reality and fantasy. I believe he is grappling with that - not just from whatever TV he sees currently, but also from the past. The news, actually, makes it worse. He has adopted an idea that the Chinese are out to kill us, because of what he has seen regarding trade, sanctions, etc., in current events.
I am touched that you took the time to reply - thank you.
Hi all, Just thought I would add my .02 cents from my experiences with my dmil. She is about stage 6 Alzheimers. She says everyday usually many times, mostly during transition times, that she wants a gun so she can kill herself. Now this is kinda funny since she probably never handled a gun and in her current mental state I doubt she could figure anything out about how a gun would work. We believe that she is really trying to say is that she is VERY UNHAPPY/uncomfortable. Since this comment is not really "actionable" we simply try to make her more comfortable. Now back in July when she started talking about doing things that she was capable of doing (cutting her throat, stabbing herself, throwing herself out a window or stairs and setting fire to the house) them we took her seriously and went to the hospital.
So I guess a long winded way to say....what is he actually trying to say? In my dmil's case, when she is comfortable and reasonably happy she does not say she wants a gun....
I would ask if you believe his request to be genuine (legitimate, at least in your mind), or if it has an element of provoking guilt from you and yours, for not being able to stop the course of nature. I say this due to my mother's own behavior, and numerous statements regarding her wishes to be dead, either by suicide, or horrible accident. Recognizing that she has her own reality, vastly different from mine now, has enabled me to accept that, as her primary caregiver, she has what I see as a huge amount of resentment (mostly unconscious, now) toward her dependence on me, and for the world that she has been thrust into. For her, being angry and vindictive really doesn't change anything, but 'playing the pity card' is still a tool, as I feel that her state is, sadly, another example of how unfair life can be, at times, and how she now tries to make sense of that, in her own demented way. I would wonder if your father's statements are (were) a reflection of his emotional state at the moment, or are consistent over time, and what his capacity is, to truly understand how his words effect you and yours. I would also ask you if you think, as I sometimes do, that when you are a trained professional in the world of mental health, if the educational knowledge and professional perspective of cognitive disorders is sometimes a curse and a blessing simultaneously...for whatever it may be worth, if you have other loved ones in your life that you can truly count on for support, practicing gratitude can help. Knowing which tools to use doesn't always mean one knows how to operate them, especially when the task is very specific and the instructions are unclear. It seems to me that the world is still writing the textbooks that will help our future generations of caregivers, but for now, maybe practice using the tools you think are useful for solving the problems you see from an accepting frame of reference... pain and suffering can also lead to growth, depending on how one sees it. Best wishes for all.
The news, actually, makes it worse. He has adopted an idea that the Chinese are out to kill us, because of what he has seen regarding trade, sanctions, etc., in current events.
Yes. I'd forgotten about that. The week dad was in the hospital after his psychotic episode, the G20 Summit was held in China. Dad's take away of the news- There was a secret group of men who run the world meeting on the 7th floor neurology unit of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania led by the guy in the long white coat (the neurology professor who held morning rounds). His followers (the residents and fellows) are so enthusiastic to be in his presence that they sing in the hallways at night.
My mom is saying the e things . My husband s brother committed suicide do him
Hearing this daily hurts him
Badly, but she doesn’t care, this is so unlike her! She also as a Christian knows this is against our biblical beliefs that the Lord God does not want us to take our own lives but she wants to Go be with My dad. We keep telling her it’s all in God’s time not ours. It’s hard on us all! Allvwe keep doing is saying Is one day at a time! It’s kimda all you can do! And I’ve looked up the word CONFABULATION. And a lot of praying God Bless
I took his hands in mine and said, "I can't do that, Dad. You already made me that promise eight times already. It would be irresponsible of me to allow you to bankrupt yourself buying Smokeless Grills, Dr. RedCross' Ultimate D and Tai Cheng."
"Well. I guess I'll just die then."
What I do (which doesn't work for everyone, but I'm telling you just so you have as much perspective as possible) is say, "I know you're frustrated. I am getting no pleasure from this, either. If dying is what you truly want, I won't stop you. I will not help, mind you; but I will not stop you if that is truly what you want."
Mostly I say this so that during that moment, if he's lucid enough, he understands that I love him enough to let him go if he's done.I don't know what life is like for him right now, but it can't be good, knowing that you've forgotten more than you currently know. He must be scared a lot of the time.
The other thing he'll say is, "Why don't you just kill me?" which up until today I would answer with, "What, and give you against your will the only thing I've wanted, desired, craved and prayed for for the last three years? I think not."
We all hope that you and your father find peace. Let us know how it goes.
I just finished reading all of these post and they have helped me a great deal. My Mom has been talking about wanting to die for almost 3 years now. I know some of it is from depression (that she has suffered from for years), but mostly from losing her ability to take care of herself. She calls herself stupid when she gets frustrated. She ask why did she have to live so long for her daughter to take care of her. She frequently says "I pray to God every day to take me. I'm of no good to anyone anymore" and other things like this.
She has had a hard life - a mother that would tell her that she was not wanted and that would bang her head into the wall. Her first husband was an alcoholic, 2nd one died from cancer (this one was her true love) and the last one just used her for 25 years and then left her when he found out that she has dementia.
Finally found her a memory care unit that she loved and was happy there. Unfortunately she broke her hip. The hospital and rehab experiences were horrible. This is when her "wanting to die" statements and telling me how she would do it if she could increased to daily - not just when she was frustrated. Her memory care unit requested I bring her back so they could help her. What a wonderful job they have done. They got her meds adjusted and gently worked with her for several weeks to get a sleep pattern established. Finally got her new hearing aids and this has had a great improvement on her happiness. The previous ones got wet at the rehab facility, even though I kept telling them that they needed to be taken about before a shower.
Well as many of you have stated it is difficult to listen to your LO saying these things. I feel so sorry for her and feel helpless that I can't fix any of this for her. I'm ready to let you go.
Thanks for listening.