Mum end of life care

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Good morning

my mum has stage 4 bowel cancer that has spread, she has also stopped any treatment since just before Christmas as it was affecting her badly mentally. More recently I have noticed that she is getting easily confused and is also struggling physically. My mum has never wanted to accept she has cancer and rarely talks to us about it. My question is should we try to get her to talk about her feelings as obviously we want to help her in any way we can or do we just keep things light for her? Is there any way to help her feel more comfortable with the situation?

thank you x

  • Hello beccaboo88 and thank you for contacting the online community.

    You may be able to sense whether your mum wants to talk. Listen to her carefully and if she does tell you something about the cancer, ask her if she wants to talk about it more. Let her decide if and when she wants to have that conversation.

    If you are not sure, you can always ask ‘Do you feel like talking?’ If your mum does want to talk about cancer, you could have a conversation about:

    • what topics are okay to talk about
    • how she will let you know if she does not want to talk about something
    • what support you can offer that she will find helpful.

    If she doesn’t want to talk about cancer or her feelings, try not to take this personally. It doesn’t mean you have done anything wrong, there are just times when people choose not to talk about cancer. This may be because they do not feel it will be helpful for them or they may want a break from thinking about it. You can still help by listening and paying attention when she does choose to talk.

    Your mum might want to talk about anything but her diagnosis and how she’s feeling as some people just want to talk about ordinary things. This could be things like TV programmes, sports events or what has been happening in your life. There is something very reassuring about day-to-day small talk. Sometimes people just want to enjoy a normal conversation. This can help them feel that cancer has not taken over every part of their life.

    Some people find it helpful to talk to someone they don’t know beccaboo. It might be that your mum is reluctant to talk to you as she’s afraid she might upset you. We’re here for her of course so please let her know she’d be welcome to contact our support line.

    Our publication Talking with Someone who has Cancer is for anyone who wants to support someone with cancer, including carers, family members and friends. It explains how to talk to and support someone who has cancer. We hope it helps you deal with some of the questions or feelings you may have.

    Is your mum’s GP aware of the fact she’s getting easily confused and is also struggling physically? They can assess her symptoms and look at what kind of support can be made available. This may be medication for example or a referral to an Occupational Therapist (OT) to look at what equipment or adaptations to the home might help her. They can also look at arranging for a Macmillan Nurse to visit. You can read more about what support might be available in Looking After Someone who has Cancer.

    I was sorry to hear about your mum’s diagnosis beccaboo. How are you just now? I appreciate it can’t be easy seeing your mum struggle and I want you to know that we’re here to support you through this as well. You can call in on 0808 808 00 00 (7 days a week, 8am – 8pm), web chat or to email if you’d prefer.

    Take care.

    Alex, Information and Support Adviser

    Remember you can also speak with the Macmillan Support Line team of experts. Phone free on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm) or by email.