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Jude's avatar

Tough question. What happens to the body during the final days of life?

Asked by Jude (32123points) March 27th, 2010

I’m up with my girlfriend in Northern Michigan. I’m up with the clan (my girlfriend and her rather large family). We’re here with her Grandma who is going to be transferred to hospice tomorrow. She is 85, has a slow progressing bone cancer, just had chemo, has a tone of other health problems and now she has pneumonia and the antibiotics aren’t helping. She has a bowel obstruction that they aren’t able to do anything about. And, because of the pain (bowel obstruction), she’s on a heavy painkiller, Dilaudid (apparently stronger than Morphine) and is asleep most of the time. She is also not producing a lot of urine (half dollar size). They decided to stop the antibiotics because they weren’t working. They’re not feeding her, as well.

I went through this with my Mom. From what I remember, the body slowly starts to shut down. Also, the breathing becomes irregular (as well as the death rattle), and their feet and fingers change to a purplish color. What other signs to look for when the end is near?

Pretty emotional and draining.

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29 Answers

faye's avatar

You have them right except we looked for mottling in their legs. The person loses consciousness as well. All families become so exhausted.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Look for hallucinations. Or maybe it’s Angels comforting her. You won’t see what she sees.

oreo45's avatar

My mother lin law would see people long ago dead(her mom amd dad) and somtimes seened to do what I call time travel, she would think my husbend was a little boy agin. She would drift in and out, untill the last two days, then her orgens stated to shut down.

Jude's avatar

When she wakes up, she keeps saying “I can’t believe it!” (when we say that we’re all there for her). She also told all of her grandkids that they were wonderful and that she loved them very much.

liminal's avatar

You know what to look for. Also noticing each other is important. I hope transparency and honesty for all of you.

ptarnbsn's avatar

The breathing will become slowed and irregular and very unnatural looking. The correct term is agonal breathing but it is sometimes referred to as guppy breathing. Its a neurological thing. Generally, once the breathing becomes agonal, their CO2 rises to the point they are no longer conscious. Eventually, the CO2 rises enough that there is no longer a drive to breathe. As the respirations cease, the HR begins to slow along with a drop in BP until eventually there is a straight line on the cardiac monito and no BP. At that point, there may still be some PEA’s or pulseless electrical activity which soon cease. Typically, breathing stops before the heart stops. It is very peaceful.

slick44's avatar

you pretty much said it all. my dad died of cancer in the hosp. breathing becomes delayed. a breath every min. and then longer each time. im very sorry

tragiclikebowie's avatar

this thread just gave me a minor panic attack. I hope me and no one I know ever has to go out this way

wilma's avatar

I just went through this with my father a few months ago.
Very emotional. I am so glad that my siblings were there, we were all together. It helped immensely.
I’m so sorry for you and your girlfriend.

lfino's avatar

Whether she’s ready to go or not makes a huge difference. My father in law’s wife hung on for a over a month. We (and Hospice) felt she was waiting for her daughter to come see her, and the daughter wouldn’t come. Even refused hospices’ pleas and hung up on them. Lots ‘o issues in that family. It was very sad. She went through all of the signs that everyone else here mentioned. I guess she finally realized her daughter wasn’t coming. If their Grandma is ready to go and feels she’s had a full, good life, then the process will be easier for her.

slick44's avatar

yes you have to tell them its ok to let go. some fight even when unconsious, people hang on even when in pain to spare our feelings. you have to make them understand its ok

thriftymaid's avatar

My understanding is that the body processes begin to close down until the last breath is drawn. I actually once read that just as watching a birth is a beautiful thing, the same can be possible with witnessing a natural death. I have never witnessed it and find that statement to be somewhat hard to believe.

slick44's avatar

Its terrible yet a relief to no your loved one is at peace.

lfino's avatar

@thriftymaid, I’ve been there and can say it’s the best thing and the worst thing to ever happen to me. I really can’t explain that either.

thriftymaid's avatar

@lfino I remember a movie scene where a mother held her daughter’s hand as the life slipped away; she said it was a privilege to witness both her daughter’s birth and death. Thanks for sharing your experience.

oreo45's avatar

Death is a beautiful journy home.

lfino's avatar

I don’t think it’s always so beautiful. With my father in law’s wife, I guess there were things that were cool, such as when she could see her mother and some other relatives. I think it’s cool that we have other’s to usher us in when we die. It was cool that the whole family was together for so long. I don’t know, I just don’t look back at it with good memories. I don’t really want to go into the bad details of it, but it wasn’t peaceful, and it wasn’t a good transition. I do know it’s not always that way.

oreo45's avatar

@lfino Birth, can be tramatic as well.

LuckyGuy's avatar

She will start awake and say she felt like she was falling. It is a side effect of morphine and diluadid.
If she is still lucid ask if there is anything she wants done. She will know what you mean.
Make a list now of the phone numbers to call when the end comes.
Stressful indeed. Your friend is lucky to have your support.

lfino's avatar

@oreo45, I thank God that I did not ever have to witness that.

slick44's avatar

I hate this question. i was there when my dad died. its been 4 years and i still cant deal.

YARNLADY's avatar

When my father-in-law passed away last month, he had been taken to hospice because the doctors said he would not recover. We stayed with him for most of two days, he sleeping most of the time, and at bed time the third day he said I’m very sleepy, come back in the morning. Mom was so tired, we took her home, but before anybody got back to the hospice, he passed on.

YoH's avatar

At the end, my step mother was not responsive and I wasn’t able to stay all the time, but I’d left word with the nurses that no one tell her what day it was. I explained she was waiting to know her SS check had been direct deposited in the bank. The afternoon she passed, I stepped outside for fresh air. When I returned,an unknowing aide, stopped me with good news. She said my step mom had opened her eyes and asked what day it was and she told her the 3rd. I raced to her room and she was not responsive. She passed away shortly after.

lfino's avatar

@YARNLADY, we sat with mom all night, and I went out in the hallway for 5 minutes to call her sister (my aunt) to tell her what was going on, and after being at her side all night long, she was gone in those 5 minutes. It bothered me for a long time, but then I remembered when I used to talk to her on the phone, she wouldn’t ever say good bye at the end of a conversation. I asked her why once, and she said she just didn’t like to say good bye. I guess she carried that thought all the way to the end.

lfino's avatar

@slick44, when you say you ‘can’t deal’, do you mean you can’t function, or the thoughts of your dad and his death won’t leave your head?

Jude's avatar

I just got this message from my girlfriend:

“My Grandma passed away this morning. I just talked to my Mom. She said it she hasn’t been in any pain and that it was very, very peaceful.”

wilma's avatar

@jjmah I so sorry, but if it has to be, then that seems the way that I would want it to happen.
A big hug for you and your girlfriend.

lfino's avatar

@jjmah thanks for getting back to us with the update. I’m glad you were able to be there with them. Sounds like it was a peaceful ending to a sad story.

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