Caring for a Senior Who is Terminally Ill

November 20, 2020

Predicting how much time a patient has left is not an exact science. Some may die unexpectedly and others decline slowly over time. It can be a very stressful time for caregivers and not knowing what to expect only magnifies the anxiety. Dying often happens in stages and there are certain signs that can provide clues to caregivers to determine just how close a patient is to death. Below find some common end of life indicators:

Withdrawal

Caused by decreased blood flow and oxygen to the brain, a patient will tend to withdraw as death approaches. While they may still be aware and able to hear, they increasingly become unable to respond.

Confusion

The patient may have delusions, hallucinations or appear agitated and confused. It is often common for someone to hallucinate and see people who passed away long ago. Try to continue to remain calm and reassuring.

Drowsiness

As the body starts to shut down, the metabolism decreases. This will make a patient drowsy and often appear unresponsive. Patients may even lapse into a comatose state at the end of life, but most are still able to hear even after they are no longer able to speak.

Decreased Urination

As the amount of fluid intake decreases, there will be reduced kidney function and a decrease in urination, although there is often a loss of bladder and/or bowel control as well.

Discolored Skin

The skin often becomes gray or bluish in color due to decreased circulation. The skin may also feel cool to the touch.

Irregular Breathing

Breathing may become more shallow and alternate between rapid and slow. The heart rate may also change in response to the altered breathing patterns. You may hear a rattling sound often referred to as the death rattle.

Changes in Muscle Function

Involuntary muscle movements called myoclonic jerks and the loss of reflexes are additional signs that the end of life is near. There are medications that can be given to minimize these jerking movements and improve sleep quality.

For caregivers dealing with end-of-life patients, often calling in hospice can provide some much-needed relief. Medical professionals can help identify some of these symptoms and develop an appropriate care plan so that caregivers and family members know what to expect going forward. At Stouffer Legal we care about our seniors, for more information on Elder Law issues contact us today.

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