Understanding the Physical and Cognitive Changes at the End of Life

Even when a person is in hospice care, there is no way to accurately predict how long he or she has left. But there are many changes associated with the dying process. In a person with a terminal illness such as cancer, the final few days of life are collectively known as the active dying process or impending death. During this difficult time, it’s often preferable to arrange for end of life care in your Memphis-area home if you haven’t done so already. Professional end of life care relieves you of the burden of meeting your loved one’s needs and instead allows you to focus on the time you have left with him or her. elderly - care

Mental State

A terminal illness often inflicts severe fatigue on patients. This excessive tiredness becomes more pronounced during the active dying process. Your loved one is likely to fall asleep frequently, even in the midst of a conversation. Some patients become semi-comatose or completely comatose. Despite this, it’s thought that a person’s hearing is one of the last senses to go. Your loved one may still hear you when you offer comforting words.

Sensory Changes

Sensory changes can be difficult for a dying person’s loved ones to come to terms with. A hospice care provider may warn you to expect visual or auditory misperceptions. Your loved one might think the TV is on when it isn’t, for example. Visual and auditory hallucinations may also occur.

Functional Impairment

As a patient draws closer to death, the systems and functions of the body begin to slow down. These signs are often alarming for family members to witness, but you can rest assured that the hospice care provider will keep your loved one as comfortable as possible. Your loved one will feel colder to the touch. There will likely be changes in the rate and rhythm of breathing. The patient may stop breathing for a while or breathing may cycle from being quite rapid to very slow. There may be a rattling or gurgling sound with breathing; this is due to fluid accumulation in the lungs. When a person is close to death, he or she no longer accepts food or fluids and the urine output decreases dramatically. Do not be alarmed if the urine is an abnormal color.

Clinical and Biological Death

Clinical death is the first stage of death. It begins when a person’s heart stops beating. Within a matter of minutes, the lack of oxygen causes the brain cells to start dying off. This is known as biological death.