My 90-Year-Old Mother’s Blind Eye

Biggest Challenge: My siblings and I have come up against a tragic problem with my 90-year-old mother. Unfortunately she has one eye that is "dead." The ophthalmologist that sees her explained that her eye is like a callous. The eye is blind and causes her great discomfort. The ophthalmologist has done everything possible to ensure that my mother is comfortable but nothing has helped. He told my mother and my sister that my mother would experience great relief if she had the eye taken out. My mother has been suffering with this eye for years, yet she refuses to have the eye taken out. We have asked her why she doesn't want to have the eye taken out and she replies she just doesn't. My brother, sister and I have talked to my mom until we are blue in the face. She is experiencing so much discomfort it is saddening. We offer her all the support we can, she lives with my sister who is 8 miles from my house. My sister is her primary caregiver. Do you have any suggestions, we are grasping at straws. By the way, my mother is a very stubborn 90 year old whose mind is very strong.

--Ellie

Answer from DM:

Dear Ellie,

When we are dealing with an elderly person whose mind is very strong, as you state your mother’s is, we must honor the senior’s wishes, especially when you know she understands her options. Your mother may have physical pain, but sometimes the pain of losing a part of your own body is an emotional pain of a totally different kind. I have been in private practice for over 40 years and have worked in nursing homes, hospitals, and long-term pediatric and VA wards. I have witnessed much and have watched families endure conflict as decisions were either made for their loved ones or ignored. It is very difficult for families to witness a loved one experiencing pain. We just want the problem to go away, so they’ll no longer be in pain. We only want the best for them.

Once the medical profession has made their diagnosis and their recommendation, it is up to the individual to make the decision for him or herself. This is their right, no matter the outcome. Many decide to go against a medical recommendation no matter what the potential outcome or danger might be. Loss in any form is difficult. Having to make the personal decision to lose part of one’s self, through amputation or operation, is daunting, and can be traumatic both physically and emotionally. Be as supportive of your mother as you are capable of being. Continue to let your mother know that you love her and acknowledge that this is a difficult situation for all of you. It may be time to turn to someone outside of the family, such as a therapist or a religious or spiritual support system. Both the individual dealing with the loss and their family will be in need of support. Knowing we have done all we can do is all that any of us can ask of our families and ourselves. My prayers are with you. The sword that goes through the hottest fires comes out the strongest and the most flexible. Stay strong, and if at some time in the future, you have to make such a decision for yourself, you will be much more sensitive to its effect on those who love you.

Most sincerely,

Dr. Marion

 

 

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