Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Dying Process

It is common for patients, families and caregivers to have questions about the dying process. The Arbor Hospice care team does their best to help families understand what is happening. Yet, the dying process is different for each and every individual and the duration may vary from hours to days.

Some of the first changes caregivers notice include decreased appetite, increased weakness, withdrawal from family and friends and increased sleepiness. As death approaches, body functions continue to change.

When death is imminent, caregivers may begin noticing some physical and mental changes, including:

  • There may be changes in responsiveness. Your loved one may be more difficult to arouse. Even if your loved one is not responding, please remember hearing may be very acute. Continue to communicate and comfort the patient by talking to them and gently touching them.
  •  Usually, it is difficult to swallow near the end of life, and your loved one may refuse liquids and/or medications.
  • There may be changes in urinary function, such as incontinence (loss of bladder control) or decrease in the amount of urine.
  • A temperature elevation is not unusual at this time.
  • Breathing may become more irregular, labored and noisy. This does not mean that your loved one is uncomfortable or in distress.
  • Arms, hands, legs and feet may become cool to touch and may take on a bluish color. This is due to slowing of circulation.
Should any of these signs occur, contact your Arbor Hospice team. Arbor Hospice is available to patients and families 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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