Q:

How do you recognize the signs of approaching death?

A:

Quick Answer

When death is within hours or days, people often avoid food and drink, and their excretory systems slow considerably, according to WebMD. Pain sometimes increases, and breathing becomes labored or irregular. Pulse and heartbeat are faint and erratic.

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Full Answer

Within a few months leading up to death, dying patients sleep more and consume less, WebMD explains. They tend to avoid favorite activities and individuals.

One or two weeks before the death of terminally ill patients, they are often in more pain, warns WebMD. Appetite and thirst decrease, as do bowel and bladder production. Changes occur in sleeping patterns, blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate and body temperature. Patients are constantly tired and sometimes confused. Breathing becomes congested. Adults do not talk as much, but children often are more chatty.

Impending death is also marked by a drop in body temperature, and feet and hands turn bluish, WebMD states. Eyes tear up or are unfocused. The individual shifts between consciousness and unconsciousness. Some patients suffer from confusion or hallucinations, while others are very quiet and aware.

Signs and time lines vary depending upon general health, the illness or injury, and medication being used, reveals the Hospice Foundation of America. Even in the final stages of death, some people are aware of their surroundings, because hearing is often unaffected until the very end.

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