Towards the End-of-Life

The end-of-life is a difficult time for everyone involved. These tips will help you understand what is happening to your care recipient 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.

End-of-Life Signs

  • Significant decrease in activity
    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 I do?

    Keep your loved one comfortable, and do not force him/ her to move around too much.

  • Loss of appetite
    Your loved one may not want to eat much.

    What can I 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.

  • Excessive sleep
    You may find that your loved one is sleeping a lot or does not wake up easily.

    What can I do?

    Let your care recipient sleep and wake him/ her up gently.

  • Decreasing body temperature
    Because of decreasing blood circulation to hands and feet, your loved one’s hand may feel cold when you touch it.

    What can I do?

    Place a warm blanket over your care recipient. Keep the blanket loose as it may cause uncomfortable weight on the legs.

  • Mental confusion
    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 I 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.

  • Changes in urination
    As the kidneys begin to fail, urine may become brownish, reddish, or tea-coloured. Your loved one may wet the bed.

    What can I do?

    Keep your loved one clean and comfortable. If you are at a hospice or hospital, staff will help you and add a catheter (a tube to drain urine). You can add a bed pad to the bed.

  • Social changes
    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 I do?

    This is natural. Treasure all moments with your loved one and be there for him/ her.

How Caregivers Can Provide Comfort in The Final Moments

In the final moments of a person’s life, you will see some changes.

  • Breathing
    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 I do?

    You can ask for medication to dry out the fluids to lessen noisy breathing or coughing.
  • Body
    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 I do?
  • If your loved one seems to be in pain, ask for medication to lessen the pain.
  • Keep your care recipient’s head up and support the neck.
  • Tilt the head or body to the side if that seems to help.
  • Moisten your loved one’s mouth with a wet cloth or lip balm.
  • Keep calm and speak in a comforting voice.
  • Stroke your loved one’s arm.

Something To Remember

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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