Skip to content

Palliative Care Center

Questions of Death and Dying

Font Size
A
A
A

As Death Approaches continued...

A couple of weeks before death, people often become disoriented. Days and nights switch, and sometimes they can't keep their eyes open. Other times they can't fall asleep. This can be particularly hard on caregivers.

During the week or so immediately prior to death, you'll see physical changes: the pulse and breathing will slow, blood pressure will drop, and skin color will become duskier.

Within a few days or hours before death, there might be what palliative care professionals call "terminal agitation." It's a kind of energy or restlessness that might be expressed as "I need to get out of here." If your loved one is deeply confused and distressed, the palliative care team can offer a sedative that will ease this transitional symptom.

Most people with a terminal illness become unconscious in the last few hours or even days before death. But that doesn't necessarily mean they don't  know you are there. Many palliative care and hospice professionals will tell you that hearing is often the last sense to go at the end of life.

Well after your loved one can no longer speak, he or she can still hear you say, "I love you."

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 30, 2013
1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Nurse with patient
Article
Grieving father and daughter
Article
 
Computer search
Article
Nurse with patient
Article
 
Nurse with patient
Article
Doctor with patient
Article
 
Nurse talking to older man
Article
A caring hand
Article
 
In hospital with child
Article
Child with grandmother
Article
 
Man comfortable in nursing home
Article
Concerned doctor
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections