If you are dying or are caring for
a dying loved one, you may have questions and concerns about what will happen
physically and emotionally as death approaches. The following information may
help answer some of these questions.
Signs of approaching death
The dying process is as
variable as the birthing process. The exact time of death cannot be predicted,
nor can the exact manner in which a person will die. But people in advanced
stages of a terminal illness experience many similar symptoms as they approach
the end of life, regardless of their illness.
If your mother lives in Phoenix and you're in New York, how do you help take care of her? Angela Heath, director of the Eldercare Locator Hotline of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, has compiled 10 strategies to help you cope. This article is adapted from Heath's book, Long-Distance Caregiving: A Survival Guide for Far Away Caregivers.
Keep track of important information in a care log.
Identify your informal network
Ask for help from people in...
Emotional changes, such as becoming less interested in the outside world and being
less socially involved with others.
Dying people may also experience symptoms specific to
their illness. Talk to your doctor about what to expect. Also, if you have
chosen to receive
hospice care, the hospice team is available to answer
any questions you may have about the dying process. The more you and your loved
ones know, the better prepared you will be to cope with what is
Whether a person suffers
from physical pain in the days before death often depends on the illness. Some
terminal illnesses, such as bone or pancreatic cancer, are more likely to be
accompanied by physical pain than others.
Pain and other symptoms
can be so feared that a person considers
physician-assisted death. But pain associated with the
dying process can be managed effectively.
Any pain should be reported to your family and your
doctor. Many medicines and alternative methods (such as massage) are available
to treat the pain associated with dying. Do not hesitate to ask for help. Have
a loved one report your pain if your illness prevents you from communicating
with your doctor.
You may want to protect your family from your
suffering. But it is important to tell them if your pain level is not tolerable
so they can tell your doctor right away.