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What Are Signs That Death Might Be Near and What Should You Do?


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Initial post: Feb 13, 2011 8:04:52 AM PST
Among signs of impending death, there might be decreases in food intake, swallowing, communication; and increases in sleep, weakness and spiritual awareness. The latter might include speaking to or appearing to look at, or dreaming about persons who have already died. Patients may become incontinent, agitated, confused, withdrawn, and congested. Bright light in patients' eyes should be avoided. Patients should be turned gently when necessary. If the patient is in hospice care, the hospice nurse or doctor can explain any changes that cause concern during the dying process.

It is important to keep in mind that dying patients with little or no appetite are not starving or in pain from hunger in the manner that is commonly understood. They are responding normally to the body's breaking down as part of the dying process. Swallowing may be difficult for them and could lead to choking when food is forced into their mouths. They could also become nauseous and vomit from being forced to take in food they do not want. Dying patients may also want less to drink. The insides of their mouths can be moistened with droplets or a fine spray, and a lip cream can be used, especially if they are breathing through their mouths. It is not unusual for breathing of dying patients to fluctuate from quiet to noisy, or to have an irregular rhythm.

As much as possible, caregivers should remain calm and give patients reassuring presence.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes
(paperback and e-book editions)
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Discussion in:  Dying forum
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Initial post:  Feb 13, 2011
Latest post:  Feb 13, 2011

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