Knowing what to expect in the final hours may be comforting to the family.

Most people do not know the signs of approaching death. Knowing what to expect can prepare for the death of your loved one and make this time less stressful and confusing. The health care providers can provide information to family members about the changes they may see in your loved one in the final stages and how they can help you get through.

Often, patients lose the desire to eat or drink in the last days or hours of life.

In the days and final stages of his life, patients often lose the desire to eat or drink and may refuse to take food and fluids that are offered. The family may give ice chips or swab the mouth and lips to keep them moist. Forcing food and fluids can make the patient uncomfortable or cause choking. Massage is another way in which family members can provide care and show love.

Patients near death may not respond to others.

Patients may withdraw and spend more time sleeping. They may answer questions slowly or not respond at all, seem confused and show little interest in their surroundings. Most patients can still hear after they are no longer able to speak. May provide some comfort if family members are still playing and talking to the patient, but not respond.

Near death, final stages of life and physical development in the patient.

In the final stage of life, there may be some of the following physical changes in the patient:

* The patient may feel tired or weak.
* The patient may pass less urine and the urine may be dark.
* The hands and feet of the patient can be covered with spots, or become cold or blue. Caregivers can use blankets to keep the patient warm, but you should not use electric blankets or heating pads.
* The heart rate may go up or down and become irregular.
* Generally low blood pressure.
* Breathing may become irregular, with very shallow breathing, short periods of not breathing fast and deep breathing.

Patients and their families may have cultural or religious customs that are important at the time of death.

After the patient dies, family members and caregivers may want to stay a while with the patient. You can be certain customs or rituals that are important for the patient and family at this time. These might include rituals for dealing with death, handling the patient’s body, making final arrangements for the body and honor death. The patient and family members should let the team know the health care of any customs or rituals they wish to be carried out after death.

Providers of health care, the staff of hospice care, social workers or spiritual leaders can explain the steps to be taken once the death has occurred, including contacting the funeral home.

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