When a person is within hours of death, bodily functions begin to shut down, with digestion, bladder and bowel activity ceasing; body temperature dropping; and breathing slowing, according to WebMD. The dying person may be unconscious or may slip in and out of unconsciousness.
During the final 24 hours before death, skin often becomes a mottled, bluish color, particularly on the face and hands, as WebMD explains. Hands and feet also often experience swelling as the kidneys begin to fail and bodily fluids begin to accumulate throughout the body, as Caring.com points out. The outer extremities also tend to become cold as blood circulation slows down.
Within the last week or two before death, a dying patient typically loses his appetite, leading to increased weakness, and spends more time sleeping. Some people withdraw from those around him, while some experience a final burst of social energy. Hallucinations and confusion may begin, with the patient talking to people who are not in the room, according to Caring.com. As the respiratory system begins to fail and phlegm builds up, it often becomes more difficult for the dying person to breathe, producing what some call a "death rattle" sound during breathing. Each dying person's death is unique, and may include some, all or very few of these signs.