There are several symptoms that the body is experiencing during the "final stages" of death.
The symptoms will not all occur for each individual because each of us will go through different combination of symptoms or there may be some individuals where death will happen so fast that there will not be much of a "final stage" to go through.
The following is a synopsis of some of the more common physical symptoms that you or a loved one may experience as they go through the natural process of dying.
As individuals prepare for the process of dying they may encounter the most or some of the spiritual/emotional symptoms or conditions that accompany physical aspects of the dying process:
Sleeping - There may be an increase in the amount of sleep the individual will require during the daytime. It may be difficult to arouse the person from the state of sleep.
This increase in sleeping is because of the change in metabolism the body experiences as it goes through the shutting down process. Visitors should try to plan activities with the individual around the more alert times.
Breathing - There will be a noticeable change in the breathing pattern which may include irregular breathing or noisy breathing that is a result of excess oral secretions that are lying at the back of the throat.
Medical personnel can give some aid to the individual in the form of position changes, oxygen, medications or a cool mist humidifier.
All of these efforts may ease the breathing for a time, but ultimately the respiratory system is shutting down and the decline in breathing function will continue.
The individual’s limbs including arms, feet, hands and legs may become cool to the touch.
The underside of the body parts may become darker in color and there may also be a noticeable discoloration of the skin in general such as a bluish or purple splotching of the skin as a response to the body's circulation slowing.
Blankets may make the individual feel warmer or they may say that they are hot and not cold despite being cold to the touch.
The dying individual may become confused easily concerning what time or day it is and also may not be able to identify individuals that should be familiar to them. These symptoms are caused by changes in the body's metabolism.
The individual may become restless, pull at the sheets and blankets or even see and hear things that others in the room do not.
These symptoms are because of the decreased supply of oxygen to the brain as well as the changes in metabolism.
Calmly reassure him/her that you are right there with them and give them support by holding their hand or stroking their forehead. Try not to react in a way that may frighten or alarm them.
The body will not need as much food or liquids during the final stage of death so there will be a decrease in the eating and drinking habits of the individual.
The reason for the decrease in need is because the body is trying to conserve energy and the shutting down process mean less function so less food is required.
There is an increased risk for choking when the individual does eat because of confusion due to the mental status or because of physical changes that may make swallowing more difficult when taking fluids or solids.
The accompanying sensation of dryness can be relieved by giving frequent and proper mouth care. Sips of fluids are better than long drinks.
An individual should never be forced to drink or eat during this last stage of dying.