What are end of life signs?

February 15, 2021 Palliative care

What are end of life signs?

Everyone is different, so it’s not easy to say exactly what will happen when someone approaches the end of their life. But in the last weeks and days before death, it’s common to experience certain changes. Learning about these changes can make the future seem less frightening and make you feel more prepared.

Why do changes happen at the end of life?

When someone is close to the end of their life, the body slows down and shows signs that your loved one is approaching the end of their life. Not everyone will have these symptoms. And they can also be caused by other things, particularly if someone has just one or two changes.

The symptoms that someone has might depend on their illnesses, their general health and wellbeing, and treatments they’ve had or are having. It’s difficult to predict what will happen. But knowing some of the possibilities provides a chance to think ahead and prepare.

What changes can be expected?

  • Losing weight

It’s common for your loved one to lose weight and muscle and look thin or frail. This can be caused by their illness, treatments or loss of appetite. However, some people gain weight or have swelling or puffiness, sometimes called oedema (fluid build-up). This can be caused by their illness or by certain medicines.

  • Feeling weak and sleeping more

Some people need to spend more time in a chair or bed as everyday activities become too tiring. Needing to sleep more than usual is normal. At this stage, lots of help is needed with things like washing, eating and going to the toilet.

  • Feeling hot or cold

Feeling hot or cold happens because the body isn’t regulating temperature as well as it used to. You can keep your loved one comfortable by making practical changes like using blankets or opening a window.

  • Eating and drinking less

Wanting to eat or drink less is natural as the body uses less energy. Tastes can change and people won’t always need to eat at the same times every day. Your loved one may have difficulty swallowing, a sore or dry mouth, or feel sick.

  • Bladder and bowel problems

Near the end of life, your loved one may lose control of their bladder or bowels as their muscles relax. There are ways to make sure comfort and dignity are maintained as much as possible.

  • Breathlessness

Your loved one may feel breathless or be short of breath. You might hear this called dyspnoea. Some people experience this throughout their illness while others experience it in the last weeks, days and hours of life.

  • Noisy breathing

Your loved one’s breathing may become loud if mucous has built up in their throat and airways. This may be because they aren’t coughing or clearing their airways. This usually happens in the last days or hours of life.

  • Pain

Pain at the end of life is something that many people worry about. With the right treatment and support, pain can usually be managed.

  • Nausea and vomiting

The doctor or nurse will look at what is causing the person to feel sick or be sick, and what can help with this. For example, they might adjust medicines if they think they are the cause. And they may offer medicines to help with it.

Lots of other things might help if the person is feeling sick, including trying different foods or drinks, eating small portions, and doing activities that are distracting or relaxing.

  • Talking less

Your loved one will talk or communicate less with other people. They might not seem to notice what’s going on around them.

Even if your loved one isn’t responding, it might help to talk calmly to them or hold their hand. They may still be able to hear what’s being said or feel your touch. If you’re not sure what to say, you could read to them or talk to them about family, friends, or what’s happening on the news.

  • Restlessness or agitation

Your loved one may feel restless or agitated and find it difficult to feel comfortable and relaxed. This can be caused by different things including emotional worries, medication, or symptoms like pain, nausea, constipation or having a full bladder.

  • Delirium (sudden confusion)

Delirium is the confusion that comes on suddenly, over a period of hours or days. Your loved one might feel confused, disorientated and agitated, and they may see or hear things that aren’t there (hallucinations).

  • Medicines

The doctor or nurse should look at the person’s medicines and talk to them about what they should be taking. They might see if any can be stopped if they aren’t helping anymore. And they might see if other medicines can help with any symptoms they are having.

How can we help?

At Cavendish Homecare we are experts in providing Palliative Homecare for individuals with terminal illnesses who want to remain in their own homes. We work to support the patients and their families with sensitive and comforting Palliative care.

Our Services Include:

  • Individualised private care in your own home
  • Bespoke 24/7 nursing care
  • Support for patients and their families
  • Pain management including medication administration
  • Specialist Palliative care for all conditions

Please call our Homecare team on 0203 008 5210 or email us info@cavendishhomecare.com to see how we can assist you.