Q:

How do hospice personnel determine when a cancer patient is close to the end of his life?

A:

Quick Answer

When death is just hours or days away, the dying person may not wish to eat or drink, bowel and bladder activity slows down, and the person may drift in and out of consciousness, according to WebMD. Irregular heartbeat and lowered temperature in the hands, knees and feet also occur.

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Full Answer

The eyes of a dying person may glaze over or may tear up, notes WebMD. Mottling, which is characterized by a mottled bluish purple look to the hands, feet and knees, may be a sign that death is likely to occur within 24 hours. Pain may be visible on the person’s face as a grimace, and he may scowl or groan; hospice usually has a pain management plan in place for terminal patients.

In the final days, a terminally ill patient may experience confusion and delirium, and he may have a heightened level of activity or begin to hallucinate. Some people also experience a period of lucidity and clarity in their final hours, notes WebMD.

Each person’s death is unique to the person and the condition that is causing the death, according to WebMD. While some people experience a rapid decline and exacerbation of symptoms, others may have a gradual decline with less noticeable symptoms.

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