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When someone may be dying

 

Information for relatives and friends

 

The most common questions people ask:-

 

These questions may be difficult to answer, as each person has their own unique way of dying. Trying to give exact details of how this happens is almost impossible. There may be many questions that you may want to ask, there will be support from the team looking after the patient.

 

How will I know when the time comes?

 

As illness progresses, the body begins its natural course of slowing down. This varies from person to person and may take hours or days. The dying person will become weak and sleepy and have difficulty walking. Their wakeful times will become less often. It may by appropriate for you to spend more time with the patient during the wakeful times and sit quietly when they are asleep. It is widely believed that hearing is the last sense to go, so it is recommended that loved ones sit with and talk to the dying during this time.

 

It is important to be aware you can still talk to the patient, even when their eyes are closed but also to be aware it is possible to make to much noise and disturb the patient. It is important not to say anything in the room that you do not want them to hear.

 

Will they have breathing problems?

 

As the patient is dying, a gradual build-up of fluid may collect in the air passages, so that when they breathe, they mat take a slight groaning (rattling) noise. This can be upsetting for the people around. It is not necessarily uncomfortable for the dying person themselves. They may need medication or repositioning to try and ease this. Sometimes it is not possible to prevent the rattling sound. However, measures will continue to maintain the patient's comfort.

 

What changes in breathing should I expect?

 

The breathing may become irregular, with long gaps between their breaths. There may be times when they stop breathing; this can continue and is variable.

 

What changes can I expect as they deteriorate?

 

There will be temperature changes, feet and hands will become cold to touch and very sensitive. Skin colour changes and can feel clammy. This is due to a decrease in circulation. Blankets can be used, but be aware of overheating. The patient may not be aware of feeling cold. A patient may become confused and disorientated. This may be due to changes in the body's mechanism.

 

The patient may become confused and may say things that do not make sense and may be out of character. They may see things or people who are not there. This can include pulling at bed linen, clothes or at the air and can be distressing to families and relatives.

 

Medication may be needed at times to try to keep the patient calm and relaxed.

 

Source: Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

 

 


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