Dying is unpredictable. It is not always possible to know for sure that a person is in the last days of life, predict exactly when a person will die, or know exactly what changes the person you are caring for will experience when they are dying.
However, there are certain bodily changes that show a person is likely to be close to death. It is normal for these signs to come and go over a period of days, and if they do go, this does not usually mean that the person is recovering.
Some of these changes may be distressing, but it can be reassuring to know what to expect and how to help. Signs that a person may be dying can include:
- their appetite is likely to be very reduced
- their breathing may change
- they may become much sleepier
- their skin may feel cold and change colour
- they may become more restless and agitated
- they may lose control of their bladder or bowels
- their eyes may be closed
By clicking on the links above you can find out more about these changes and whether there is anything you can do to help.
The links below give more information and practical advice relating to other concerns or questions that might arise:
- Does the person I am caring for need medication? If so, which medication, and how do I get hold of it?
- The person feels sick or is vomiting.
- Will the person’s pain get worse as they get closer to dying?
- How can I make the person more comfortable?
- The person seems distressed, or is experiencing difficult emotions
- What happens in a person’s final moments of life?
- Caring for someone with a terminal illness
More information about support available and what to do after a death is available at the links below:
- What care can a dying person expect to receive?
- Patient information about drugs used within palliative care
- What to do after a death
- Information and advice about bereavement and loss
- Where to go for support
Thanks to the National Council for Palliative Care, Sue Ryder and Hospice UK for their kind permission to reproduce content from their publication What to expect when someone important to you is dying, which can be downloaded or purchased from the Hospice UK website.
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