It can be difficult to assess when your elderly parent is nearing death, and you may feel unprepared. Before your elderly parent passes, his body will develop phases of dying. Some signs of the end of life can include increased agitation, withdrawal from family and your parent discussing that he's dying -- which will alert you that death is approaching. While this may not provide you with any comfort, you can at least give palliative care to make the transition as peaceful as possible.
Your loved one may decrease food intake. This may trouble you to witness, as you may feel that eating can somehow renew your loved one's strength. However, as one becomes closer to death, the body no longer needs nourishment. Repeatedly encouraging someone to eat, or even forcing food can cause nausea and abdominal pain, according to Rhode Island Hospital. However, you can provide comfort by applying lip balm or moistening the lips of your loved one with ice chips, recommends the Mayo Clinic.
The elderly can experience disorientation as they near death. Between 28 to 83 percent of individuals will experience some form of delirium as they come closer to death, as stated by Charlotte A. Paolini, DO for the "Journal of the American Osteopathic Association." Symptoms can include hallucinations, memory loss, talking to previously passed away loved ones and confusion. You can confer with your loved one's physician to provide a non-stressful environment if an increase in agitation becomes noticed.
Circulation of blood will begin to relocate to the organs, making the extremities cold to the touch. The body can fluctuate between cold and hot, and you may notice your loved one perspiring or feeling clammy to the touch.The color of skin can also change, becoming bluish or a blotchy purple. You can provide your loved one with a blanket to keep her warm. Yet, don't feel hurt if she decides that she doesn't want a blanket. Your loved one may not even feel cold.
Your loved one can spend copious amounts of time sleeping. During this phase, he may awaken, but be incapable of communicating to you. In other moments, it may be difficult to rouse your love one from his slumber. Don't be afraid to talk with him during this time. Although he is unresponsive, he can still hear you. William Lamers, M.D., former consultant for the Hospice Foundation of America, asserts that hearing is the last sense lost prior to death.
Breathing patterns change upon nearing death. Breathing can become rapid, followed by a duration of stopped breathing in a process known as Cheyne-Stokes, notes William Lamers, M.D. The breathing will resume and become more labored as death advances. Congestion and coughing can accompany Cheyne-Stokes breathing. You may also notice a rattling sound within your loved one's lungs. You can provide your loved one with a vaporizer in his room to help alleviate fluid accumulation in his lungs.
Northern Arizona Healthcare reports that prior to dying, a person may develop a new vigor. You may notice your loved one making requests or statements. This is your loved one's way of saying goodbye and giving you the opportunity to say your farewells. While during this moment, you may become overwrought with grief, giving your loved one a kiss or saying, "I love you" can help her realize that you have come to terms with her letting go.
- Rhode Island Hospital: Palliatve Care; The Physical Signs; 2010
- Mayo Clinic: End of Life; Caring For a Dying Loved One; January 25, 2011
- Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: Symptoms Management at the End of Life; Charlotte A. Paolini, DO; Vol 101, No 10; October 2001
- Hospice Foundation of America: Signs of Approaching Death; William Lamers, M.D.; 2011