How people experience the end of their own life, or the death of a loved one, is always unique. However, several characteristics are common among many people who are near the end of life. Many of these events are natural; they can take place rapidly over a span of hours or slowly during a period of several months. This guide is designed to help you understand what is happening to a loved one who is preparing for the end of their life. If any questions arise, it is important to contact medical professionals in order to develop a better understanding of the end of life process.
As a person consciously or unconsciously begins to recognize they are approaching the end of life, they may turn inward in contemplation of their lives and the future. Sometimes the person will speak less than usual. Occasionally, you will notice he or she wants to talk more, often about past events or current medical concerns. It is common for someone to become anxious about legal matters concerning their Will or property.
Some people show less interest in their usual pastimes or hobbies. They may be less interested in visitors, or in responding to phone calls or cards of encouragement. Their emotions may become more evident, or less so.
Weakness and fatigue
Physical weakness and mental fatigue may increase as part of the end-of-life process. A person experiencing a life-ending illness will often fluctuate between good days and bad. Over time the loved one will require more assistance with everyday tasks such as grooming, hygiene, using the restroom, and possibly eating. Patience and a positive attitude will be instrumental for both the ailing person and the caregiver.
Sleep patterns may be disrupted. Depending on general health and medication, your loved one could sleep less and move around more at night, or maybe sleep for longer stretches of time. Sleepiness even during waking hours is common, along with occasional confusion. Night-time supervision may be needed to avoid nighttime falls, and offer assistance when necessary.
Expect your loved one’s appetite to decrease. Liquid nutritional foods are handy, such as milkshake-type beverages with enhanced nutrients. Favorite snacks and treats can be offered to supplement missed or minimal meals.
Fluids are important as long as the person is able to swallow. When the person can no longer swallow, a few ice chips are refreshing. Use lip balm to keep the mouth and lips moist. Wiping the face occasionally with a lukewarm washcloth offers simple comfort and relaxation.
End of life awareness
As the end of life comes closer, loved ones may seem to speak with deceased relatives or friends. They might talk of going away or preparing for a big event. Patiently listening or asking gentle questions to show interest can be reassuring to your loved one.
Increased sleep/ states of unconsciousness may increase. Specialists believe patients in this state may still be able to hear and perhaps feel, so continue speaking affectionately and holding your loved one’s hand or stroking the brow. Share favorite music, stories, and memories.
The person’s bowel and urination habits may change, requiring special care and supplies. Breathing often alternates between fast and slow in cycles. Contact the doctor if you are concerned about this or its effect on the patient.
Some areas of the body might start to feel cold or become discolored. This is due to changes in the blood’s circulation. Cover the person lightly for comfort. Typically, physical changes like these will not cause discomfort.
Contact A Medical Team
If your loved one experiences a change that concerns you, contact your medical team. Dying is a natural part of the life cycle, even though it is difficult to face. Families that share this experience with mutual support make it easier on everyone.