The end of life is a difficult time for everyone involved. These tips will help you to understand what is happening to your loved one who is receiving care, and what you can do to help keep him/ her happy and comfortable.
The end-of-life signs in this write-up are general signs of a natural death. These signs may be different for each person. The end of a person's life can last for days, weeks or months. Despite all the differences, you can help your loved one by being there for him/ her in these final days.
Your loved one may move and respond much less. He/ she may lose interest in everyday things or his surroundings. Or, perhaps he/ she cannot sip water, lift his/ her head, or shift in bed.
What can you do? Keep your loved one comfortable and do not force him/ her to move around too much
You may find that your loved one is sleeping a lot, or does not wake up easily.
What can you do? Let your care recipient sleep and wake him/ her up gently.
Your care recipient may be disoriented (confused). He/ she may imagine things, be confused about the time and place, and talk to people who are not there.
What can you do? Remain calm and speak softly to your loved one. You may have to remind him / her of your name and your family members' names.
A person at the end of life can become very quiet, and may not want to talk to anyone. On the other hand, sometimes, people have a burst of energy in their last days.
What can you do? This is natural. Treasure all moments with your loved one and be there for him/ her.
Your loved one may not want to eat much.
What can you do? Keep him/ her hydrated by letting him/ her suck slowly on a small ice cube, or use a warm damp cloth to moisten the lips. You can also apply lip balm to prevent dry skin. It is okay if your loved one does not want to eat much. Let him / her eat a comfortable amount.
Because of decreasing blood circulation to hands and feet, your loved one's hand may feel cold when you touch it.
What can you do? Place a warm blanket over your care recipient. Keep the blanket loose as it may cause uncomfortable weight on the legs.
As the kidneys begin to fail, urine may become brownish, reddish, or tea-coloured. Your loved one may wet the bed.
What can you do? Keep your loved one clean and comfortable. If you are at a hospice or hospital, staff will help you and might add a catheter (a tube to drain urine). You can add a bed pad to the bed.
In the final moments of a person's life, you will see some changes.
Your loved one may breathe in a strange way. Sometimes, he/ she will breathe very quickly, then stop breathing for a while. He/ she may cough or breathe very noisily because of fluid build-up in the lungs. Noisy breathing is common and it might look painful. However, your loved one normally does not suffer during noisy breathing.
What can you do? You can ask for medication to dry out the fluids to lessen noisy breathing or coughing.
Your care recipient's skin may change colour and become dark or greyish. The beds of the fingernails may appear bluish. Ankles and feet might swell. He/ she may slip in and out of consciousness or go into a coma.
What can you do?
Even when a person seems to be unconscious, he/ she might still be able to hear you. Always behave as if your loved one can hear you, even when they seem like they cannot.
Your loved one may pass on when you are not there, even if you leave just for a while. Some people feel that their loved ones want to spare them the pain. Whatever the case is, do not worry if your loved one passes on without you in the room. It is natural and it happens quite often.
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