My Terminally Ill Father Has Been Rolling His Eyes up into His Head Lately...

Updated on May 01, 2009
C.W. asks from Sedalia, MO
23 answers

as many of you know, my dad has stage 4 colon cancer (spread into his liver, lungs, brain, & bones). lately it's been pretty rough. he's not currently doing chemo. he had a round of radiation. possibly more radiation will follow. in a few month's time, he's lost over 40 lbs, and weighs about 115 currently. he doesn't eat much & sleeps a lot. my mom's worried bc she says he sleeps about 18 hrs out of the day and he often will be sitting in his recliner and his eyes will just roll up into his head and she sees all white and she's worried...this is scary to her. she's asked me to come by after work tomorrow and watch him do this. i'm not sure on all the details, but that's pretty much what i know. any ideas why he's doin this thing w his eyes? he's only 56 yr old...this whole cancer experience has in general sucked for him and his family/friends as he slowly fades :( also, any ideas on what sort of fun stuff we could do w him? he's fallen a couple times & has A LOT of trouble getting up and down and standing/walking, so there's lots of limitations...unfortunately to top it all off, he reads at about a kindergarten level and so reading and crosswords, etc aren't his cup-of-tea. i've offered many times to teach him to read better, but he doesn't seem too interested. he watches a lot of tv, when he can stay awake. ALSO (sorry didn't realize i had This Many questions in me :)...any ideas on what he might be willing to eat...his appetite's not so great and he needs soft foods cuz he doesn't have any teeth. any input/support you have is great, especially about the eyes rolling up in his head thing.

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S.H.

answers from St. Louis on

I read the other responses & saw that Hospice has been recommended.....how about support groups thru the hospital. Not hospice, but just support. Also many churches have support groups....

I wish you & your family peace.

1 mom found this helpful
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A.S.

answers from Springfield on

I'm so sorry for what your family is going through. Prayers are with you all. I agree with the others...I think it's time to contact Hospice. I don't know anything about the eye rolling thing, but they could help you understand. With the age of your kids and your father's lower reading skills and trouble walking...would it be possible for them to play some sort of video games together? It would be a chance for them to make some fun memories together. (My family has Guitar Hero marathons one weekend every few months.) God bless!

1 mom found this helpful

S.L.

answers from Kansas City on

I'm sorry you are going through this. My dad had colon cancer and it had spread to the liver, etc. too. He died at our home after he and my mother came to live with us at the end so I could help her. It was just such a blessing to be with him when he passed into Heaven. He would smell something cooking and ask to eat and then it didn't taste right so he couldn't eat it. Their taste just fades away. He'd talk about how he'd love to eat a hamburger but couldn't eat it either. He'd listen to music and then say it was too loud and bothered him. Their senses just can't handle what they used to like and tolerate well, eating included. He just sort of withdrew and slept more and more as he got weaker and weaker. We had Hospice when the doctor said it was time and the worker we had was just wonderful and we were thankful for all they did. One day I asked my dad why he wasn't talking as he hadn't said much all day and he said he couldn't describe it and didn't mean to be rude but just felt he was slowly not in this world anymore but looking forward to his home in Heaven. I think you lose interest in things when your body is shutting down. Maybe just talking with your dad and telling him you love him and just quietly letting him know you are there would help him. Just sitting by my dad and holding his hand was comforting to me and what he seemed to like too. He was only down in bed 2 months so that was a blessing too. Activities are too much at this stage I would guess. Spend time with your dad and enjoy his days while he's here. I will be praying for your family.

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J.K.

answers from Kansas City on

Have you or your mother spoken w/the doctor or someone from hospice. I think they could provide great insight and support to both your father and mother. No one ever wants to admit that perhaps this is where someone is at in their disease process, especially w/your dad being so young. But getting some information may help to put things into perspective as to what could be most benficial to your family. Hospice also offers a dietician for nutritional support and a grief counselor for support for your mom and for your kids who probably have a lot of questions themselves.

1 mom found this helpful
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S.M.

answers from Kansas City on

Not sure about eyes rolling .My Guess is mild seizures.See Dr about this.I would give him lots of ice cream and puddings.My Dad had Lymphoma and he ate alot of icecream.

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R.M.

answers from Topeka on

C....I dont know if you have contacted hospice yet but I feel that would be the best step you can make right now. They can help you understand where your father is in his journey and what to expect and WHEN to expect it!! They are a wonderful, supportive organization and can offer so much support and relief for all of you.
As to the things that you can do for interaction with your Dad...at the times that he is alert enough to enjoy interacting...do some digging into family history with him. When my mother was in the final stages of cancer...we spent many many hours going through boxes of old pictures that she had, so now I know who those older relatives are who passed away many years before I was born. Maybe you could even get a tape recorder and record what you all are talking about so that you dont forget anything. It will be invaluable information after he is gone. Let your children do things with him...even if he is just watching them and commenting...it is building memories for them of their grandpa. How about the older one reading the newspaper to HIM....and the two of them can talk about sports stories or something else that captures their interest?? Think about what interests your Dad...and build on that.
As far as the food is concerned...I wouldnt push a lot of food on him...I was told by the hospice that helped me when my Mom was going through this...that as people move towards the end of their lives...their system starts to slow down...and they really can't digest a lot of food. If they eat too much they are going to either be uncomfortable as it just sits there in their digestive system...or they will become nauseated and sick. Let him guide you...if he says he wants to eat...and if something sounds good to him...then go for it!! And he may not eat more than a bite or two and decide that is all he wants to eat. Dont push it...let him be in charge of it.
There will come a time when he will be bedfast...it will be just too hard on him ...and too dangerous to try and get him up and sitting in the living room. Bring a tv into his room, if he wants to watch tv...hospice can arrange to get a hospital bed for you so he can elevate his head if he wants to...and the bed rails will provide more security for him. They will also send in home care to help bathe him and change his sheets. There is no reason for your Mother and the rest of the family to carry this all on their shoulders...Hospice can be so helpful. I really do encourage you to call them. Not only do they help with the things I have mentioned...but they will give you access to the medicines he needs to remain pain free.
God bless you...
R. Ann

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L.B.

answers from St. Joseph on

Hey C., sounds like it's progressing pretty fast. As I had mentioned in your first posting, I still believe you should get him enrolled in Hospice...they will be able to help provide some help in the home as well as possible Durable Medical Equipment...it's possible they may have one of those electrically lifting Lay-z-boy recliners...and if they can't, they can surely tell you where you can go to rent one!!! That would be SOOO incredibly helpful in getting him in and out of chairs!

As for the falling part, well at this point he shouldn't be trying to walk on his own. I'd ask a hospice person to borry a gait belt for awhile...these are the belts that physical therapists use on patients in hospitals and nursing homes...you can put it around his chest (under his arm pits) and it helps you get a better hold on him and not rely on pulling on arms or elbows that may be more brittle now. Also, a hospice can certainly provide the use of a walker or canes for the time being as well and usually this is all FREE OF CHARGE.

You said your Dad can't read but he can certainly listen...why not head down to the library and check out some books on tape? There are lots of stories so just find something he's interested in.

As for food, really ANYTHING can be made for him...you just have to remember back to baby food days...whatever the family is eating for dinner...stick in a blender and puree it. That way he can have steak and potatoes too! When my mom was sick I even resorted to buying and feeding her babyfood too. Applesause gets really old after awhile and so does jello...just remember anything can pretty much be pureed.

As for the eyes rolling back in his head, I agree that this is something that you should talk to the Dr. about. It could be a seizure. On the other hand, he could just be falling asleep. When we sleep our eyes do roll back in our head...it's possible he's just doing it BEFORE he actually closes his eyelids.

The appetite is something that is only going to progressively get worse. You all need to have a discussion as to what his wishes are as you may need to resort to a feeding tube before too long. I know this was NOT my mother's wishes but we did keep her hydrated with IV fluids because starving to death doesn't hurt, but not being hydrated DOES.

You said that you love animals...does your dad? A small dog or a cat can be very cathartic when a person is ill...he may enjoy having a visit from a four legged friend.

Anytime you want to chat, feel free to drop me a line.

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B.M.

answers from St. Louis on

Hi C.,

Your father's cancer has spread to his liver, does he complain of any pain, or, is he on heavy pain meds to keep him comfortable?

My husband died of pancreatic cancer 8 years ago, he also rolled his eyes back until you could see the whites, he was just exhausted from pain and the meds he took.

Does any of that sound familiar to you?

1 mom found this helpful
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P.T.

answers from Kansas City on

C.,

I know that you asked specific questions, but all that I want to say is that I am still praying for your father and family. It might be a good time for you to start a prayer vigil! Go to your church, or a local church, and ask for help to get one started.

God Bless you and your family,
Trish

1 mom found this helpful
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V.S.

answers from Kansas City on

Please set all pride or previous beliefs aside and look into this... the truth will change your lives when you know and use it: Andrew Womack Ministries (awmi.com) has incredible teaching on Healing. Order it, watch it as soon as you can, and have your dad watch it with you. It is life-changing. Much is available on-line for free, but I recommend ordering the DVDs on Healing and God's truth about it. I was with a girl who was healed of breast cancer 2 days ago... last night she was cancer free. This may sound like too much (I understand, I've been there), but nothing is too big for God. Learn all that you can. Andrew is on TV in KC on 197 at 7:30am and on 194 at 9:30pm I think. WATCH as soon as you can! May you and your family be blessed by the truth of God's word, and may your lives be changed.

1 mom found this helpful
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J.E.

answers from Kansas City on

Honey, you need to contact a Hospice organization. They will help your father be comfortable and they will help you in understanding what's going on. There are hospice centers as well as organizations where the nurses come to your house. Please check it out. You and your family really need some support.

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S.S.

answers from Kansas City on

My Grandfather got very bad with cancer as well and had trouble eating anything. My Mom made him potato soup from instant mashed potatoes, milk and butter and he said that tasted so good. You can also melt a little Velveeta in it to change it from time to time. Makes up in the microwave in a few seconds and in quantities they can eat at one time.
Good Luck and sorry you and your family are having to go through this!

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K.B.

answers from Wichita on

Good Morning and God Bless & be with you C.. It is so hard to watch a parent suffer will any type of illness. I think his eye's rolling back would be from lack of muscle control. Once he relax's he has no control over his eyelids to close. Just a thought though, sometimes if they are deep sleeping your mom could gently close his eyelids. Hubbys uncle did this and that is what they were told was the cause from Hospice. My Mother also, before she passed from Alzheimer's las August.
Does your dad enjoy mysterys, westerns or musicals? You could get him books on CD or tape to listen too, I love them personally. Would be something he and your mom could enjoy together.
Scrambled eggs maybe with some yummy cheese on top, jello, puddings,mashed potatos, chicken or beef broth, ice cream. Could use a juicer and make him different veggie juices to drink.

If your dad enjoys or enjoyed being outside you could get a walker from a medical supply, or even a wheeler chair. If he used to enjoy fishing you and the kidd-os could take him fishing even if he just watched the kids have fun. Even for an hour would be good at a park for fresh air.

I am so sorry C. you are all going through this, it is good he and your mom have you close to be extra comfort and strength for them. Your mom will need you even more as this ugly disease progesses more.

God Be with you and I am praying for you all

K. Nana of 5

"He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge(safety). His faithfulness will be your shield(comfort) and rampart(safe haven)". Psalm 91:4

"May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
May the Lord Make his face shine upon you,
and give you Peace...Forever"
Amen

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J.P.

answers from St. Louis on

C.,

I'm so sorry for the road you and your family have ahead of you. I know a lot of people have said you should contact Hospice - The doctor will/should let you know when it is time to do this. They did with my mom. Keep in close contact with your Dad's doctors and ask them about new symptoms you see. I know from experience that lots of sleeping is normal. His body is fighting a losing battle and it is wearing him out - also, radiation wipes them out and the effects last quite a while.

As far as what you can do with him - Do you have a wheelchair? If not I would get one - he will need it eventually anyway. This will enable people to take him for walks - go to the zoo, the park, the botanical gardens, family functions etc. I would follow his lead. When my mom was ill she wanted to do a lot of things - but she couldn't last very long either. She would let us know when she was tired and needed to go home.

You could also rent some of his favorite movies for him or get books on tape.

As far as food - jello, shakes, mac n cheese, pancakes, applesauce - pretty much anything he is willing and able to eat, but don't be surprised as he gets sicker if he refuses food. It is all part of the process.

Best wishes to you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Having been through it myself I understand your pain.

Jennifer

1 mom found this helpful
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L.S.

answers from Wichita on

Dear C.,
I'm so sorry about your dad. I would strongly suggest getting in contact with Hospice. I'm a Hospice volunteer and so know first hand how helpful they are.

I know people think that Hospice is for the dying but its really there for the patient to be able to live each day of their life to the fullest. Hospice is also there to support the family and to walk through the end of life issues with them. They can explain the eye rolling, the loss of appetite and all those other issues which can be so frightening.
God bless you as you help your folks deal with this.

1 mom found this helpful
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K.C.

answers from Wichita on

I haven't been through any of this, but I would have your mom tell his dr. The only time i've heard of someone doing that is with a seizure (not all seizures make you shake).

God bless!

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T.W.

answers from Kansas City on

When his eyes roll up in his head, can you wake him up easily? If so, then he is probably just tired and doesn't realize that he is doing it.

You could play video games with your dad. What kinds of things did he like to do when he was well? Buy those types of games and play them with him. Golf? fishing? race cars? etc. You could also sit down and read to your dad or get books on tape from the library and listen to them together. You could just sit quietly and spend time with him, hold his hand, reflect on past memories you shared together?

As far as food, does he like ice cream? You can freeze Ensure and he can eat it like ice cream and have all that he wants. OR you can use it in place of milk and make milkshakes/smoothies for him to drink.

Hope this helps
Take care and God Bless :)
T.

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D.M.

answers from St. Louis on

I know what you're going thru, my brother passed away 4 years ago from advanced lung cancer, he didn't much of an appetite either but I would go by after work and make
him milk shakes which he seemed to take withour any problems. good luck to you and your family and you are in my prayers.

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A.P.

answers from Kansas City on

C.,
I'm sorry you are going through this, you and your family are my prayers.

Have you tried looking @ family albums and videos with your dad? Encourage his grandchildren to read to him and share their days with him. Most zoos & amusement parks have wheelchairs you can rent. Enjoy the time you have with your dad, encourage your kids and other family members to spend time & share memories with your dad, even if its just holding his hand. The kids could play games like go fish or dominos with your dad.
Foods, let your dad eat what he wants, even its chocolate [email protected]____.com his favorites.

I agree with the others, it is time to look at Hospice for your dad. There a lot of great Hospice's out there, Crossroads, Liberty Hospice, you should be able to find one that will take your dad's insurance and fit his spiritual/religious needs. Hospice will also help and support your family as you go through this.

Also make your mom gets breaks and lots of support, as hard as it for you, your mom is not only watching her husband going through this but worried about the impact your dad's illness has on the rest of the family. Maybe treat her to lunch and either a trip to the spa, manicure and pedicure or shopping with family while other family members or friends stay with your dad.
Good luck,

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K.S.

answers from Springfield on

I am so sorry for what you are going through. My husband has stage 4 prostate cancer (spread to bones and some lymph nodes) but for the most part he is doing okay except we have been through some appetite problems. He was also without teeth for awhile and between that and some bad side effects of cholesteral meds he lost about 30 pounds that he couldn't afford to lose since he has always been on the skinny side. My fear was that he was going to starve to death long before the cancer killed him. The doctor prescribed an appetite stimulator (Megestrol Acetate) that seemed to help some. I started giving dh Ensure (or the Equate equivalent) and then started making milk shakes using the Ensure and ice cream. He LOVES them and says that they are "quite tasty". And he doesn't have to put his teeth in to eat them.
My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family. Hang in there, honey. I lost my father to cancer when I was 26 y/o. *hugs*

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B.H.

answers from Kansas City on

So sorry to hear about your fathers illness. You mentioned you wanted some ideas that you could do to make him happy. I think one of the best things would be just spend time with him. Maybe have the children or you make some photo albums of them with him and thier grandmother to share with him when he is having a good day. Encourage him to talk about things he remembered during times in his life. I love hearing stories of a time before me and what people did. Hopefully he will be able to contribute. If not just spending time with you and your children is a blessing. My prayers are with you all.

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D.M.

answers from Lawrence on

Dear C., I have never had a family member get this bad with Cancer. I mean both of my grandmothers had breast cancer and they both survived that and then my grandpa died of lung cancer and so did my grand mother but they went down really fast. I just wanted to let you know that I will put you and your family on my prayer list. God Bless you and your family!

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K.P.

answers from St. Louis on

My mother in law had cancer too. I also worked at special school district, some of our children there, had seizures. It sounds like what is happening to your father may be seizures. Some seizures are not grandmal seizures where they shake like crazy. Some of them they will be sitting there quite normally and their eyes will roll back into their head.They don't last very long. THis I have seen happen anywhere up to 150 times an hour. All you will see is the whites of their eyes. Have you talked to the doctor about this? ALso treatment for cancer will tire out the body. The cancer treatment will also make them lose their sence of taste. My father also had cancer. We had trouble getting him to eat because he said nothing taste right.His taste never came back. If you get a chance. Take time just to be with him. Even take him out to the park or anywhere to have a little family time. That makes so much difference. It gives them something to look forward to, you never know what time you have left with them. Love him and hang in there. IT gets rough some times not knowing what to do to help. I have been through this twice. PLus my son had cancer. so far it is not coming back. So I say a lot of prayers. I will say some for you also. TO help you make it through. Also hospice is a great place to get help.They can do so much to get you through this. They can help with equipment and medicines, and just someone to talk to when you need an ear. Take care and God bless your family.

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