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Posted: October 20, 2008

Practical Caregiving

Is a Deathbed Vision Possible?

Sometimes in caregiving, there are things that you just can’t explain. And things you hesitate to ask about or discuss with others.

Madge, in Des Moines, had one of those experiences, and she’s emailed me for my input. As strange as it may sound to some, Madge says she saw a life-like image at her father’s deathbed and wonders whether this is common – or even possible.

What do you say?


Dear Jean:


I had an experience when my father was dying that I can’t get out of my mind. Mom isn’t doing well and doesn’t have much longer to live. That is why I am thinking about Dad’s death.


The night he died, I saw a man standing at the foot of his bed. The man wasn’t like you and me. I could almost see through him. When Dad died, the man left, but a dove hovered over Dad’s bed for a little bit.


I’ve heard about other people having experiences when someone died, but I don’t know anyone who has had one. Did you have any experience when your parents died or do you know anyone who has? I want so badly to talk to someone that has had this type of experience before Mom dies.


Madge K., Des Moines, Iowa


Dear Madge:


I haven’t had the type of experience you did, but when someone close to me is dying, I feel it. I think I experience some of their feelings, but I’m not sure. I have a friend who experiences the same thing. The feelings I experience are not the physical pain or anything like that. It’s more like the feeling of giving up.


I have a cousin who experienced something similar to what you did, but not exactly. She died a few years ago, so I can’t ask her about it.


I do know there are many people who have experienced something when someone close to them dies. Whether they are religious experiences or psychic experiences, I don’t know. These experiences seem to help the loved one left behind face their loved one’s death.


(If anyone reading this column has had any experiences when their loved one died, please email me and tell me about it. Let me know if you think it is a religious experience. If you do, what religion would it likely be? If you don’t, do you believe you are psychic? And anything else you want to share. You are the one who experienced it, and you probably have an understanding of it that someone just hearing about it would not have.)



Dear Jean:


My name is Carol and I need help. I live in a small town about 30 miles from Minneapolis. We have to drive to the city to see a doctor. I’ve been taking care of my mother in my home for three years. My husband lost his job a month ago, and I don’t make enough to support us. Mom gets Social Security, and my husband gets unemployment for a little longer. With my income, Mom’s Social Security and my husband’s unemployment, we still don’t have enough money. This horrible economy is ruining our lives.


Mom fell and broke her hip a couple weeks ago. She didn’t have surgery or stay in the hospital very long. I missed the doctor when I visited her in the hospital, but she made arrangements with the doctor for us to drive to Minneapolis three times a week for physical therapy. We don’t have the money to do that. I’ve called various organizations that are supposed to help, but they don’t have the money either. People don’t give like they used to. They don’t have the money to give.


Carol P., Minneapolis, Minnesota


Dear Carol:


My first impression is that you should be able to have someone come to your house instead of driving to Minneapolis. Call your mother’s doctor and talk to him about your situation. He probably isn’t aware that your husband lost his job. He should be able to have a physical therapist come to your house. A doctor can usually set that up.


Look in the Yellow Pages of your phone book for home health care agencies. Call several of them and ask what they can do to help you. They generally have physical therapists to call on. They will probably come out to the house to evaluate your mother’s situation. They may need to sign up your mother to their service, but that can help you and your mother in many other ways. They will work with your doctor and sometimes can save you many trips to Minneapolis. They often do accept Medicare and various types of insurance. With luck, you probably won’t need to pay for their services.


Another way you might be able to get help is to call your local church. Sometimes they have people in their congregation who like to help people voluntarily. Sometimes they will even give you respite care. That means they will stay with your mother while you go to a movie, or something else you enjoy doing.


Good luck.

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