March 27, 2016 Hospice
There are two developments at work during the final stage of the dying process. Physically the body systems begin to shut down. Emotionally and mentally the dying person’s spirit begins the process of being released from the body. Death occurs when both the physical and spiritual processes are complete. Following you’ll find the physical and emotional/spiritual signs of death.
Your loved one may spend a large amount of time sleeping. Continue to speak naturally to them and hold their hands. Try to be present when he or she is most alert.
The person´s extremities may become cool to the touch while the color of the skin changes. This is a sign that blood circulation is decreasing and being saved for the vital organs.
You may hear gurgling sounds coming from the person’s chest. This change stems from a decrease of fluids and not being able to cough up secretions. The sound of congestion does indicate pain.
The person may appear confused about where they are and who they are with. This disorientation is due to changes in metabolism. Speak clearly and identify yourself when you need to communicate.
Making restless and repetitive motions, such as picking at clothing or blankets, is common. Rather than trying to restrain these motions, speak quietly, massage the forehead and play soothing music to calm them.
Breathing patterns may change. The person may experience shallow, rapid breathing or short periods of no breathing. This is caused by a decrease in circulation.
Your loved one may speak to or say they have seen or spoken to people who have already died. This is one way in which the person prepares for the transition from life to death. These visions are not necessarily hallucinations or reactions to medication, but a natural experience.
As the mind prepares for release the person may appear unresponsive and withdrawn. Because hearing is one of the last senses to stop functioning, continue speaking in a natural tone as you offer words of comfort and support.
The person may only want to be with a small group of family and friends or possibly just one person. If you are part of this group, consider it an affirmation that you are needed for support. If you are not part of this circle, do not be hurt. It does not mean you are not loved, rather it means you have fulfilled your purpose and can say goodbye.
A dying person may hold on to life, even if it means prolonged discomfort, to make sure their loved ones will be all right. Being able to release your loved one from this burden and assure them you will be fine is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Your final gift of love will be saying good-bye. This allows your loved one to find closure and make the final release.