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    What to Expect When Your Loved One Is Dying

    Signs That Death Is Near continued...

    When death is within days or hours, your loved one may:

    • Not want food or drink
    • Stop peeing and having bowel movements
    • Grimace, groan, or scowl from pain

    You may notice their:

    • Eyes tear or glaze over
    • Pulse and heartbeat are irregular or hard to feel or hear
    • Body temperature drops
    • Skin on their knees, feet, and hands turns a mottled bluish-purple (often in the last 24 hours)
    • Breathing is interrupted by gasping and slows until it stops entirely

    If they're not already unconscious, your loved one may drift in and out. But they probably can still hear and feel.

    At the End

    In the last days or hours, your loved one may become restless and confused and have hallucinations so upsetting they may cry out, strike out, or try to climb out of bed. Stay with them. Try to keep them calm with soothing music and gentle touch. Sometimes medication helps.

    The room should be well lit, but not bright. Make it as quiet and peaceful as possible. Constantly assure them that you're there.

    Ironically, a loved one may also become clear-headed in their final hours.

    When to Say Good-bye

    One of the hardest decisions is when to call in people to say good-bye and to make memories for the future.

    Let family members and close friends know as soon as it's obvious that death is near. The care team can help you all prepare for what's coming, both what will happen to your loved one and your own physical and emotional reactions. Being together allows family members to support each other, too.

    Even though you've gathered, don't assume it means you'll be there at the end. Often the person doesn't die until those who sat with them for hours have left, as if he or she was unable to let go while the ones they loved were there.

    Help and Support

    Caregivers, families, and friends of someone who is dying can turn to:

    • Family Caregiver Alliance
    • Hospice Foundation of America
    • National Caregivers Library
    • National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on July 31, 2016
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