The end of life process can be scary and troubling no matter how much you prepare for it. Thankfully, you do NOT have to go through this process alone. Hospice care is a saving grace because it provides skilled, compassionate caregivers who walk the family through the end of life stages. These caregivers do an excellent job at preparing families for signs that the end is near, and they stay with the patient so that family members can take a break when needed.
Here are the symptoms that you can expect during the end of life process.
Extreme fatigue settles in mainly because of the illness or disease the person has been battling. You may also find that your loved one is excessively tired due to their medications, poor nutrition or symptoms of depression. As long as it’s okay with the doctor, continue taking your loved one for short walks. A bit of sun or fresh air can uplift your loved one’s spirits.
Loss of Appetite and Thirst
The desire to eat and drink slows as the end nears. The body doesn’t want or need the nutrients anymore, so it stops asking for them. Don’t push foods on your loved one; instead, offer small meals and high-protein, high-calorie snacks when requested. The biggest things to avoid is dry mouth and dehydration, so continue pushing ice chips to avoid this from happening.
Patients who spend a long time in bed will suffer from bedsores, and these sores are very painful. Also, circulation slows and causes the skin to breakdown. To avoid painful sores, your loved one’s position should be changed every two hours. A hospice nurse can help move your loved one safely while also caring for bedsores to reduce the risk of pain and infection.
During their final days, your loved one will most likely suffer from cognitive changes like confusion, delirium and agitation. It could be from the illness itself, the medication or a loss of nutrients. Also, the organs are failing, so this can cause the brain to shut down. Some medications are available to help with agitation and confusion, but the main goal is to keep your family member comfortable.
There are medications available to help with breathing, so notify your hospice nurse if you notice a change in your loved one’s breathing patterns. Providing your family member with fresh air or a foot massage can relax their breathing. The main thing to look for is difficulty breathing, and in this case, a portable oxygen tank can help.