Dear Barbara, My mother is 84 with multiple medical issues and increasing cognitive impairment. She has in the past and even now expresses that she no longer wants to keep “exiting” and doesn’t know why she is still alive. I don’t know how to help her.

I hear this frequently from families as their person loses more and more control over their life, as their body and mind becomes weaker. They are unhappy and frustrated with where life has brought them. Many add that they just want it over with. 

When the medical establishment has used all of their options to extend life of course we will not be happy with life and living. We may be depressed, angry, often in denial and even bargain with ourselves—-all the avenues of Grief—-because we are grieving. We are grieving the loss of our physical agility, our habits, our interaction with our life as we know it, our normal, and, ultimately, our very life.

Unfortunately, her life is what it is. What you can do is try to make her present, her “each day,” as good as you can. What does “good” mean? Visiting with her, taking her for a ride, reading to her, watching TV with her, sharing a coffee and donut. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just simple, together moments. 

With cognitive impairment the best we can do is make the present the specialness (but really the present is all any of us have).

Most of us are fix-it personalities and want to fix situations. There isn’t really any fixing here. It is making the most of each moment. If she asks “why am I still alive? I don’t want to be.” One simple answer,  “You are. How can we make this time more comfortable for you?”

You both have a challenging time ahead of you. Your gift is to love her through it.

Something More about… Caring for a Mom With Multiple Medical Issues

I encourage you to have on hand our End of Life Guideline Series: A Compilation of Booklets.  This bundle takes you from life-limiting diagnosis to Grief. It will help for Mom to read A Time to Live:  Living with a Life-Threatening Illness  so that she can use this “gift of time” that she has now.  It is part of the bundle. 


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Barbara Karnes Registered Nurse

Barbara Karnes, RN Award Winning End of Life Educator, Award Winning Nurse, NHPCO Hospice Innovator Award Winner 2018 & 2015 International Humanitarian Woman of the Year

While at the bedside of hundreds of people during the dying process, Hospice Pioneer Barbara Karnes noticed that each death was following a near identical script. Each person was going through the stages of death in almost the same manner and most families came to her with similar questions. These realizations led Barbara to sit down and write Gone From My Sight, "The Little Blue Book" that changed the hospice industry.