What to do when your parent wants to die due to health problems?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is 54 years old. She was on high pain meds for the past 15. She had gotten hurt while working. This past year she weaned off of her meds and, after letting them go for far too long, had gallstones and her gallbladder removed. When she got there they said her oxygen was low and hard to get up. She didn't want to leave the hospital because of the oxygen, the food, the close bathroom, and the drugs. She was happy at first but got depressed before long. It got harder for her to breathe, to digest, and move around the house. Her rescue inhaler no longer works because she is taking a different inhaler. She wants to die and thinks that she will soon. I think she is far too young to give up, she gets upset if I bring up getting oxygen. I'm not sure what to do. Part of me knows she isn't happy, but part of me doubts it's her time to go. What do I do? I helped to take care of my grandmother before she passed and I remember her saying certain things pertaining to death. I think my mom is mostly depressed, but she can't survive in the environment she's in. The bathroom is downstairs, we live in a pine forest, live paycheck to paycheck, and we have a moldy pond in our backyard. I'm at a loss of what to do. It's not like she's even considered a senior. What should I do? It upsets me a lot to hear her say she wants to die and that she is going to soon.

Expert Answer

Linda Adler is the director of Pathfinders Medical in Palo Alto, California. She has dedicated her professional life to helping patients and their families find optimal ways to deal with medical challenges. She has worked in all facets of the medical establishment, including primary care, research, and policy settings at UCSF, Stanford, and Kaiser Permanente. Her current focus at Pathfinders includes crisis management, mediation, and advocacy.

I am so glad you reached out. There are some options for you to consider, especially some strategies that might help you to find some peace in this challenging situation. However, because this is going to require a more lengthy answer than I can provide here, I'd be grateful if you could contact me directly. Just go to the contact page at www.pathfindersmedical.com/contact and follow the instructions.