People are unique, and so too is their death. But dying is something we all do, and regardless of the illness, what happens to our bodies before this final event can be pretty similar from one person to another.
In this post, we will take a brief look at the process of dying; what happens in the body as it shuts down, and how you might expect loved ones to notice changes in whatever time they have left.
Noticing the Signs
While there are a number of signs that death is on its way, not everyone will experience all the signs nor, will they occur at the same time or in the same sequence. Sometimes these signs may happen a few hours before death or a few days. It is important to note that they are a normal part of the natural process of a slowing down body.
Hunger and Thirst
It is normal for the dying person to begin losing their appetite and not feel like eating. It can be difficult for them to swallow, and they may lose interest in food or drink altogether. While this may be distressing to see, it is a natural process as the body slows and does not need as much energy or sustenance.
Sleep and Alertness
Changes in the body mean that they may spend more time asleep, maybe more drowsy and find it difficult to wake up. This change in sleeping patterns is perfectly normal, and it can be best not to bother them when they are resting.
The amount of urine that the body is producing decreases due to the reduced amount of fluid the person is drinking. Some may experience a loss of control of their bowels and bladder, and may not be aware that they are wetting themselves. This is a common sign that death is approaching, and if this happens it can be helpful to change their clothes or use pads and absorbent sheets so they feel more refreshed.
Regular breathing patterns may change. Sometimes the breathing may be fast, and at other times there may be long gaps between breaths. While this is worrying to see, the person is not in pain. The rate at which they are breathing will automatically adjust to what the body needs.
Due to the decrease in circulation of blood to the brain and to other changes happening in the body, the person may become restless or agitated. Speaking in a soft and calming manner, playing familiar music or gentle touches and massages can help to soothe the patient in their finals days.
As coughing and swallowing reflexes slow down, saliva and mucus may collect in the back of the person’s throat, causing a gurgling, bubbling and other noises.
To help improve this, the person head can be lifted ad-supported to help drain this excess mucus. Similarly, medication can be given to slow down the production of fluids, saliva and mucus.
Starting The Conversation
Death is an event that we will all experience, some sooner than others. As such, it is important to understand the dying process in order to prepare for this final journey, whether you are a loved one or a patient.
Dying To Understand is a charity dedicated to providing you with all the information and resources you need to adequately understand the death and dying process. With a host of resources, books and information to explore, you can finally feel confident at the end-of-life journey,