What happens near the end of life.

Death can come suddenly, leaving little to no time to prepare. However, sometimes watching a person become increasingly frail makes it hard to know when the end of life begins.  Changes can happen so slowly and you may not notice them.  If you do know that death is coming soon and know what is likely to happen, you will have a chance to plan.

Should someone always be in the room with a dying person?

A caregiver can sometimes take comfort in always being there, but it can be very tiring and stressful. You should not feel like you must be with them at all times, unless of course your religion or culture require it. You need your rest and you need eat and stay healthy. Friends and family members should be available to take turns staying in the room with them.  Many family’s will come up with a schedule to follow to make sure someone is always there.

No two deaths may be exactly the same, however, there are some common symptoms very near the end:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Refusal to eat or drink
  • Mental confusion
  • Frequently being tired and sleepy
  • Constipation or incontinence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

All these symptoms on their own do not mean that someone is dying. But, for someone with a serious illness or failing health, these might suggest that the end of life is coming soon.

Also know that the hands, feet and limbs may become cool to the touch as death comes closer. Some areas of the body may start to look darker or bruised. It is also common to see breathing and heart rates slow down. There may even be times when the person’s breathing stops for many seconds. Some people will have noisy breathing that makes a gurgling or rattling sound, sometimes called a death rattle. Eventually, no air comes out of the nose, the chest stops moving and there is no pulse.

After death, there may still be a few twitches or movements of the arms or legs. Sometimes there may be an involuntary cry due to some muscle movement in the voice box. Sometimes there will be a small release of urine or stool.

Understanding these symptoms and signs ahead of time can relieve a lot of stress you may experience watching the passing of your loved one.