It’s impossible to predict the exact moment of death, but there are signs that the end is looming just around the corner. From a loss of appetite to labored breathing, most people exhibit a few behaviors that indicate the time to say goodbye is now. As difficult as it is to consider, as a caregiver, you must learn to recognize the portents of passing and help make the final transition as reassuring as possible for both you and your loved one. Here are some tips to help prepare you for this difficult but natural transition.
Is the end near?
One of the first signs the body is shutting down is a loss of appetite, according to senior caregiving specialists at Caring.com. This may be accompanied by excessive fatigue and increased physical weakness. A dying person may be unable to change their position in the bed. Disorientation and labored breathing are also common; listen for Cheyne-Stokes respirations, which is abnormal breathing characterized by increasingly deeper breaths and a gradual shallowing of respirations. In the hours leading up to death, a person’s hands and feet may become swollen and their extremities feel cool to the touch. One of the final physical changes that happen before death is a loss of blood circulation that results in uniformly pale skin and mottled veins.
While the process of death is one that is heart-wrenching to experience from the outside, it’s important to respect your loved one’s wishes. For instance, if their final desire was to pass peacefully at home, let them do so no matter how emotionally painful it may be.
Your loved one may not be able to express their thoughts and feelings at any given moment but, rest assured, he or she is aware -- on some level -- of their surroundings. You can make their passing as peaceful as possible by ensuring you have the equipment you need to properly provide end-of-life care. This may include a hospital bed, bedpan, IV equipment, oxygen or dialysis equipment, and accessories that improve mobility.
How to say goodbye
If you have the privilege of being by your loved one’s side in his or her final moments, consider yourself lucky. Many people never get the chance to say goodbye or offer comfort to their mom, dad, brother, sister, or child as they pass. Hospicenet.org asserts that you should not be afraid to hold your loved one’s hand or offer other physical touch. If there have been any hostilities in the past, it’s time to offer forgiveness. If your loved one is religious, reassure them that they are moving into their creator’s embrace. The most important thing you can do is to simply be there, even if they don’t know it.
What to expect when it happens
At the moment of true death, your loved one’s muscles will relax completely. This includes those responsible for preventing bladder or bowel leakage. Since there is still air in the lungs, the deceased may make moaning, sighing, or groaning sounds if disturbed. This may last for several days and you may, in fact, hear noises from the body during the funeral. If your loved one has a DNR order and has been under the care of a physician, contact their doctor or funeral home for assistance.
Dealing with grief
It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone you love. Grief takes time. It’s natural to feel periods of intense anger and frustration. One thing that can help, though, is giving yourself something positive to focus on. For instance, ZenBusiness can help you create a nonprofit in your loved one’s honor, and that has the benefit of keeping you busy while also helping the community and showing respect for the departed.
Death is inevitable for all of us. And it’s the ones left behind that suffer when a loved one takes their final breath. While they may not even be aware of what’s happening, you can keep them comfortable until the very end. Honor your friend or family member by keeping a keen eye, creating a calm environment, and saying goodbye with nothing but love in your heart.