One of the saddest realities in life that we don’t want to talk about is death, especially a loved one.
Nobody wants to lose people close to their hearts. And nobody wants to know that someone’s going to leave them soon.
But, knowing the end of life signs can help us prepare emotionally and mentally. Because no matter what we do, death is inevitable.
End of Life Signs
Losing a loved one is heartbreaking and emotionally draining. And knowing that someone special is going to leave soon can give you a mix of terrible emotions.
Caring for an elderly suffering a terminal illness carries such a burden.
However, knowing about the end of life signs can help you prepare yourself for what comes next.
You can ensure that the patient receives proper palliative care or hospice care to feel comfortable as they approach death.
COMMON SIGNS that indicate your loved one is nearing the end of life are:
- Increased sleep and fading consciousness
- Social withdrawal
Increased Sleep and Fading Consciousness
A person approaching the end of life experiences a decreased interest in becoming active and an increased desire to sleep.
At times, they drift into a deep sleep or become comatose. They become UNRESPONSIVE and unable to move.
However, the elderly patient can still hear what you say despite unresponsiveness. So, you can still indirectly talk to them.
When the person has reached this state, the family caregiver can help reposition the body to avoid bed sores.
Older persons can experience confusion, delirium, or hallucination as death approaches.
The dying person may be confused with the time and the identity of the people around them, even family members.
There are instances where they hallucinate about meeting a person who passed away long ago or imagining things that are not there.
These can show that the disease has progressed or less oxygen reaches the brain.
Signs of agitation, restlessness, and repetitive motions can also be part of the dying experience.
If they have reached this point, remember to STAY CALM. Do not restrain them or get impatient.
You can gently remind them of their surroundings.
If a person is under hospice care, you can ask a healthcare provider to prescribe medications to ease the situation as necessary.
Social withdrawal is another end-of-life sign that families fear. Knowing that a loved one is slowly drifting away is painful and heartbreaking.
During this phase, an elderly person may show LITTLE INTEREST in their surroundings.
As death is approaching, the elderly naturally shift their focus inward.
They drift away from their friends and other family members during this period.
According to professionals, reassuring a person may help to ease their anxiety. When they are unresponsive, permitting them to let go is also helpful.
Incontinence and Constipation
Another common end-of-life symptom is incontinence in both urinary and bowel movements.
When the person is near death, their muscles and entire body relax. And most often, the patient will release the bowel that they have been holding.
You can use incontinence pads or place disposable pads beneath them in moments like this. You must also make sure to keep them clean often.
Constipation is also one of the COMMON SYMPTOMS that precede dying.
Pain medications can cause constipation among hospice patients. Their lack of activity and fiber-rich food intake can also contribute to this condition.
To address this, you can ask for help from healthcare providers for relief.
Elderly End of Life Symptoms
If signs reveal some of the mental and psychological irregularities your loved one is experiencing, symptoms showcase the PHYSICAL STRUGGLES.
Just like the signs, preparing for these symptoms is no easy task, but proper treatment is IMPORTANT to reduce the pain of your beloved elderly.
Let’s discuss some symptoms you need to watch out for when trying to take care of your beloved elderly.
- Loss of appetite
- Inconsistent breathing patterns
- Nausea and vomiting
Loss of Appetite
When a person is approaching death, they may feel a loss of appetite and fluid intake.
As the body prepares to shut down, it no longer yearns for food or other nutrients and calories.
Before death occurs, the body naturally perceives that it needs to conserve energy. Hence, processes like digestion are slowed down and eventually stopped.
This is not easy to accept for family members, especially family caregivers. Feeding elderly patients food is a huge part of their routine.
However, it would help if you respected a dying person’s desire to eat and drink less in times like this.
Offering sips of water or juice instead of solid food can help refresh the patient.
You must also keep their lips moist by applying lip balm or glycerin swabs.
This is one of the MOST FEARED symptoms when thinking about a dying person. No one wants to see a loved one suffer from severe pain before passing away.
Pain is most often rampant among elderly patients with cancer. However, this is rare for other terminal illnesses.
You can get palliative care from a health care team if a loved one is suffering from pain. Or if you think they might experience such a feeling in the process.
The health care team ensures that the dying patient is comfortable. They can provide pain medication for pain management and relief.
Alternatively, playing soothing music and using relaxation techniques minimizes discomfort and anxiety.
Inconsistent Breathing Patterns
Inconsistent breathing patterns are common among patients nearing the end of life.
Before a person dies, their vital signs, like blood pressure and heart rate, become irregular. This causes abnormal breathing patterns and labored breathing.
While these are not signs that something is wrong with the patient, you still need to call the attention of a hospice nurse.
Doing breathing exercises and taking medication can help ease breathing problems.
Cheyne stokes breathing is one phenomenon where a person experiences ABNORMAL BREATHING.
Such a pattern involves shallow rapid breathing, followed by slow, heavy breaths. Eventually, breathing ceases.
The death rattle is another type of irregularity in terms of breathing.
The buildup of mucus and saliva blocks the airway, causing noisy breathing with a rattling sound produced.
With decreased blood circulation, the elderly might experience coolness.
Their hands and feet may appear cool to the touch, and they may feel cold.
This happens because the heart cannot pump blood throughout the body.
As the blood pressure decreases, the body temperature also decreases. With this, your dying loved one’s skin might appear bluish or purplish and may appear blotchy.
To bring back warmth, you can use soft blankets. They are BETTER than electric blankets. The elderly patient may not be able to tell you or the family caregivers that it is too hot.
However, there are also moments when the temperature increases and their skin is warm to the touch or appears flushed.
You can treat such a mild fever by putting a warm washcloth on their forehead for relief.
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are several end of life symptoms that a dying elderly may exhibit.
This is sometimes caused by certain medications used to manage their illness. There are also instances when the health condition itself is causing nausea.
To relieve nausea and vomiting, you can provide nausea medication to the patient. You can also offer small portions of food and limit foul odor.
You can also bring them outdoors for fresh air if they can. If not, you can use an air purifier in their room.
What Is the Most Common Symptom at the End of Life?
We can’t deny that PAIN, both physical and mental, is the MOST COMMON SYMPTOM both the elderly have to face.
The PHYSICAL PAIN most seniors have to face will ALWAYS be present, whether they vomit, lose appetite, or experience chills.
Unfortunately, they also can’t get away from the mental aspect of pain, especially when they experience forgetfulness, confusion, or even depression.
These psychological struggles contribute to the physical symptoms elders have to face, thus proving how PAIN will always be common at the twilight of 0ne’s life.
Elderly Dying Process
As an elderly person experiences imminent death, a family member or caregiver can witness the dying process.
Terminally ill elderlies and aging loved ones may show behavioral and physical changes over time.
In most dying patients, their bodies naturally slow down functioning.
When this happens, the heart beats at a slower pace than usual, while the brain and other internal organs receive fewer amounts of oxygen.
Less oxygen could affect the way a person thinks and acts.
The hormones produced by the body are also affected because it influences how the organs function.
Early and late signs preceding dying can appear in a timeline, either a few weeks or even hours before death.
- 4 to 12 weeks before death, a dying person may show signs and symptoms like less interest in communicating, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, and increased sleep.
- 1 to 4 weeks before death, restlessness, abnormal breathing, lower blood circulation and temperature, and skin discoloration may appear.
- 1 to 7 days before dying, a sudden energy boost is noticeable. Symptoms from the prior week may also increase. Hallucinations and confusion will also appear on these days.
- On their final days and final hours, dying people may fall comatose, and the only sense that they have left is hearing. Their eyes may also tear up or appear glassy. Afterwhich, they release their final breaths.
How Long Can Someone Be in the Active Stage of Dying Last?
Active dying refers to the FINAL STAGE of the dying process.
While pre-active dying lasts for three weeks, active dying occurs within three days.
During these moments, the patient is already showing multiple end-of-life signs. Their blood pressure may suddenly drop, and their temperature consequently lowers.
By asking for professional help from a hospice nurse or healthcare provider, you can predict if the patient is actively dying.
They can also help in telling you the proper way to care for the patient.
Hospitals and nursing homes have played an important role in end-of-life care. However, people nowadays have started to embrace in-home hospice.
With this, families can witness the end-of-life process as it unfolds.
Hence, learning the end of life signs and symptoms that a person may exhibit as they approach death is essential.
Although it is a painful process, this helps you prepare yourself emotionally.
You can also prepare to get palliative or hospice care to ensure that your loved one is comfortable.