Topic: What are the signs of impending death?

My 64 year old husband is now in hospice care.  He was sent home frome the hospital the end of June and told that he only had days to live.  Our 6 children all rushed home ( 4 of them live out of state, 600 to 2000 miles from home).  We had a good week together, but due to jobs, families, etc. they all had to return  to their own homes  and have since been sitting on pins and needles awaiting a call from me.  They call every day to check in, they love their father very much and want to be here for him, but can't.
We were told that he would slide into a coma and within 72 hours be gone.  Over the last few weeks, he has had days here and there where he was pretty unresponsive and slept all day and then late afternoon, he would wake up and be alert and want to move about.  His feet, legs, and abdomen were badly swollen,  and the hospice nurse has kept telling us he just has days left.  The only thing I can think is that because his body was in excellent health except for the cancer, that it is helping him hang in there longer, I don"t know.  I love him and don't want to lose him but I can't handle watching him die by inches either.  The swelling went away in his legs and feet, but his abdomen is very swollen, he is getting weeker and more confused all the time, for the last week and a half he has spent all but maybe 2 hours a day asleep in his hospital bed.  He has periods of restlessness which scare me to death because he wants to be up an about, but even with a walker, he has fallen several times and I am afraid he will break something and make things even worse for himself.  He has had a few bad episodes of pain , but for the most part we are keeping it under controll.  Is there a way to know if it truly is a coma or something that will let me know the time has come for sure to call my children and not be like the Boy calling Wolf".  This is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced,  I watched both of my parents die, but this is my spouse, my whole world has been built around him and our children.  I am trying to stay strong, but this is so hard.  Life has been a nightmare since Jan 2007 when his first major attack of pain occured, things have never gotten even half way back to normal since,

I would really appreciate any input you may have. 
Thank you,
LD

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

LD,
Oh, I feel so terrible for you! It breaks my heart. I, too, had to do the death watch for my mother (age 64), and was frantically trying to get answers as to when the end was near. A week before my mother's death, the swelling in her legs got much worse and worked up to her abdomen more, even to her behind and hips, and fluid started leaking through the pores in her legs. Hospice told me that was a sign of the end, but she seemed the same otherwise, so I didn't believe them. Then, one night, she suddenly sat up and said, "Something's wrong!" and started vomiting black bile. Then she had to go to the bathroom for the first time in days and had a bm. My mother's dear friend told me to call the hospice nurse right then, saying she knew that your body will purge itself of all its fluids in preparation for death. The hospice nurse came and looked at my mother, who was sleeping but still conscious a few hours a day, and said my mother would definitely die within 48 hours. She was absolutely right. She based this on looking at my mother's fingernails - she said they were turning blue underneath, but I couldn't really see it - and on her shallow breathing and low blood pressure. She told us to watch for the "death rattle" - a terrible-sounding breathing that most people have at the end of life, sometimes only for a few minutes, sometimes for hours. My mother got that gurgly kind of rattling breathing shortly thereafter and she went on like that for 4-5 hours, but it got louder and then I knew it was soon. For the last few minutes of her life, her breathing suddenly got much quieter, so I knew a change was happening, then she just gasped her last few breaths and she was gone.

The night before she died she also had confusion and tried to get up and got agitated, which we were told to expect, and hospice gave me some kind of pill to give her to calm her down. That may also be a sign of the end.

I'm telling you this because I know how desperately I was looking for signs of the end, and I couldn't find any answers. But everyone is different, even in the way they die, so I don't know if this information is much help to you.

I hope for a peaceful passing for your dear husband and I pray for peace for you and your grieving family. My heart goes out to you.
- Joyce

3 (edited by ukmember Mon, 13 Aug 2007 09:28:28)

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

The day before my husband died he stopped eating and drinking completely.
At that point I called my children I just had a feeling.

The night before he also passed stools that were black and tarry (sign of internal bleeding) and he had a very swollen abdomen and less swollen feet and ankles.  Unlike Joyce's experience there was very little sign that he was about to die in the few minutes before. He vomited and then stared at me very intently and then looked off into the distance as if he was seeing something else, and then fell back on the pillow and died.

Don't hesitate to call your children, they would want to be there and he would want to see them.

Be strong and all my best wishes are for you and your family. May your husband have a peaceful death with all he loved around him.

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

LD...I'm so sorry to hear your husband is close to the end of life.  I really feel at this stage all family and loved ones probally should have visited and shared their last loving moments.  Trying to determine what day or hour someone is going to pass is something that does not happen very often.  Quite often a person will hold on to life for every possible moment until a loved one lets them know it is okay, they will always be loved and they may rest peacefully now.  It's not uncommon for someone passing to look or await for those words of reassurance. The last sounds or hints are so different for everyone.  LD, the children should understand the timing of someone dying is not an exact science. Trying to rush for the final breath puts your children and others at risk for an accident. It is such an emotional time for all. May your husband rest peacefully until the it's time to go. I'm sure Hospice Staff will do their best.
God Bless,
Jeff G.

Take it to the Limit,One More Time! (Eagles)

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

LisaNZ .... Where do you have to travel from and too?  I would check with the airlines or whatever mode of transportation and ask if there is anyway you can travel on a space available standby for humanitarian reasons.  Explain the situation.  You never know.  I have seen it happen before with a letter from the doctor verifying condition.  Do you have something called the Red Cross or similiar Organization? Give them a try.
God Bless,
Jeff G.

LisaNZ wrote:

Hi everyone

My Mum was diagnosed 2 months ago, and already my Father thinks she is close to the end.  I'm terribly frightened and can't be with her as I live overseas.  She hasn't eaten properly for over a month, in the last week she's eaten almost nothing.  She is skin and bone, and rarely gets up.  On a few occasions she has had an accident in the bed as she couldn't get up.  My Dad thinks she won't be here in another 2 weeks time.  She is also very agitated and becoming quite aggressive which is something she's never done before.

I desperately want to go home to see her, but I have no money to travel at the moment.  I'm trying to save money so I can go but I don't think she is going to last that long.

Take it to the Limit,One More Time! (Eagles)

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

My sister is almost in her 3rd week of hospice care. Her blood pressure went really low and then it rose again today. She is swollen, and not responsive. The docs gave her 3 days 2 weeks ago. I think I have heard that rattle. This is so very painful. I am home because her children are there. I have to sleep at some point in my own home.
Blessings to all of you patients, family friends and care givers!

Middlesister

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Middlesister,

I have been through what you are now experiencing just a few short months ago when my husband passed away and just want you to know that I share your pain and that you & your family are in my thoughts & prayers.

Darla

"One Day At A Time"

All of my comments and suggestions are just my opinions and are not a substitute for professional medical advice.   You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers.

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Hi Middlesister,
It sounds like you and I are in about the same place.  Joe has been in hospice for about 10 days now.  No rattle yet but the confusion and the swelling are huge.  He sleep most of the day but has some lucid periods.  We have now limited visitors to just family and that helps a lot.  THe nurse said he may just stop breathing and die or he could go into a coma.  With Thanksgiving coming we canoot plan anything.  We have a daughter getting married at Christmas and the bridal shower is the day afte Thanksgiving but we have to hold evrything with a loose had.  Just one day at a time.  It is not in our timing.  I hope you have family around to help you. I can't do this by myself. I can't even move him in the bed alone anymore.
My prayers are with you as we say goodbye.  Mary Anne

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

LD -

My heart aches for you.  We are in a similar situation with my Dad, so I have all the same questions.  Though I don't believe we are at the same point - Dad still eats well and has no pain.  However, he is very weak, shaky, short of breath most of the time, and mentally confused.  Though his doctor sent him to the nursing home with "weeks" to live, predicting fluid would collect again, it has turned into a slow and gradual decline without any swelling so far.  So far, he's in no pain, but it's difficult watching him get weaker and weaker, not really knowing when the end might be. 

So I'm glad you brought up this question.  It helps to know what others have experienced. 

Jan

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

My heart goes out to all who are facing the the decline of their loved ones.  It might be helpful if those of us who have traveled this road before to reach out by private e-mail to the members requesting assistance in this very personal matter.  Gladly, I will share with anyone my experience.  Please, feel free to e-mail me, anytime. 
All my love,
Marion

THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTH CARE PROVIDER

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

My father was just diagnosed, so thankfully we are not at this stage. My family does have experience with it with my grandfather and three of my aunts.

One thing that is so important is for family members to tell their loved one that it is okay to go. Hospice gave us this advice and it was so true. My aunt hung on for her son and my mom. When they were both gone, I quietly told her what they couldn't and that she should let go and they would be fine. She died early the next morning.

Prayers for all.

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

My mom is nearing the end but not quit there. She just had a bile drain put in and if she stablizes, she can go home. Can any one tell me about experiences with thesed drains and what to expect after?

god bless evryone

Mom and dad forever in my heart.  I love you always. April 14 2009 mom passed and March 1 2009 dad passed. As my mom said to me 'What ever happens, be strong.'

13 (edited by tiapatty Sat, 10 Jan 2009 17:14:37)

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Natasha,

My mom ended up with a total of 3 drains, they require some care, hopefully they have shown you what to do. There is also info online:

www.mskcc.org/patient_education/_assets/downloads-english/528.pdf

My mom hated the bags but I do believe they helped her avoid the severe vomiting that many report in the end.

I have some leftover drain and gauze sponges if you want me to send them to you, I offered them before but nobody responded. Feel free to e-mail me and I will gladly give you my phone# if you have more questions about the drains.

Patty

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Natasha,
My dad had a drain and it wasn't so bad.  Just had to watch it when he was in bed and moved.  Mom had to sponge bathe him during that time too.  But he relieved a lot of his discomfort so it was worth it.

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Thank you for reading my post and responding. It means so much to hear back from people who understand. I'm in Canada and thankfully our tax dollars are paying for moms medical sponges and things like that. My mom has since had 2 infections and a couple of painful procedures with the drain. On a bad day she asks to be put out of her misery and says this is not a life worth living. She's in the hospital over 40 days now. I spent the first 20 with her, then her sisiter took over for another 20 and I'm back again. It's harder this time. She had a high fever today and has lost lots of weight and for the first time, was extreamly exhausted the whole day. I wonder when she will leave us. I wish there was something I could say to her to bring some kind of peace to her. Shes so fragile and child like and so sweet. She doesn't want to bother the nurses even when she's not well. She's always concerned about our well being and has appologized many times to my brother and father and my self for putting us through this. Does any one have any idea if the exhaustion and fever are signs of the end? I feel like I want to talk about how she feels about dying, but can't bring myself to it. Has any one regretted not asking those questions?
My heart truely goes out to any one who has experienced the overwhelming feelings and helplessness and loss that comes with terminal sickness.

Mom and dad forever in my heart.  I love you always. April 14 2009 mom passed and March 1 2009 dad passed. As my mom said to me 'What ever happens, be strong.'

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Natasha,
So sorry to hear about your mother and how she's worsening. Being in the hospital so long can be dehumanizing and must bring her spirits down even more.  I was in a similar situation with my mother, but I can't really tell you when the end will come, since it's so different for everyone. Just know that your being there is an immense comfort to her and she loves you for it.

As for not talking about death, I can tell you that I'm one person who regrets not talking about it more fully with my mother (she really wasn't comfortable with the subject, and I guess I wasn't, either). There are so many things left unsaid between us, so many regrets. That said, I think I can say with certainty, that even if you DID talk about every aspect of death with your mom for 3 weeks straight, you will still have regrets after she has died. It's a terrible part of the grief process: though we rationally know that we did all we could, our minds keep going over what we should have done differently, what we should have said or should not have said. I'm just telling you this to prepare you so you don't feel as guilty - but you probably will feel guilt. So if you think your mother would be upset by your bringing up the subject, try to bring it up gently, and if she refuses to talk about it, then just honor her wishes. That's all you can do - it's her choice and if you let her know that you are open to anything she wishes, then you've done the ultimate good for her. Everyone copes differently, and some people just don't want to make plans for/talk about the end.

I grieve for you in this painful situation. All my love and hope going out to you and your mother and your family. You can always come here for a bit of support if you need a shoulder to lean on.
Joyce M

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Natasha,

Everything Joyce has stated is so true. I too am so sorry you & your family must go through this along with myself & everyone else here who has or is going through this painful situation.  Try to stay strong & know that we are all here for you when you need us. I will keep you, your Mom & your family in my thoughts & prayers.

Love,
Darla

"One Day At A Time"

All of my comments and suggestions are just my opinions and are not a substitute for professional medical advice.   You should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care providers.

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Dear Natasha,

I had to say hello and send warm thoughts from Thunder Bay Ontario! Where abouts do you live in Canada? I am so sorry to hear about your mother's current situation. 40 days in the hospital just seems cruel to me! I really hope the doctor's are doing all they can for her. I understand what you mean about not wanting to rock the boat over talking about death. It has been very difficult for me to talk to my father about his impending death also because we have never been all that close, so talking about death was the last thing I wanted to do. But I am so thankful I talked about it with him. We didn't talk about it that much, but what I found helped was writing him a letter. I found I could better explain myself through writing. I don't know if that is an option for you? Anyways, this is a very special time for you and your mother to share as painful, and frustrating and difficult it is. She must really love you for the constant support. You and your mom are in my prayers!

Hugs,

Ashlea

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

hello friends,

since my last post, my Dad passed away. todays was the comemorative 40 days we practice in the greek orthodox religion.

my mom is going this week or next at most. i was strong thru my fathers death which was totally unexpected but now, i feel weak and emotionally drained. i arranged for mom to go home over last weekend and she was so greatful. since we've been back to the hospital, i hardly recognize her. she became constipated and has internal hemeroids which are killing her. pardon the pun. its been since dec 28 2008 we've been in the hospital and its finally comming to an end. my heart is breaking and i want her to go at the same time. its so hard to witness  someone you love dying and suffering so much.  she cries and cant move around and spends an hour at a time going to the washroom trying to relieve herself. its true that when the bowel movements stop and the peeing slows down its only days before  dying right? i feel exhausted and nervous like i cant take it anymore, and the i look at the fight my mom has put up and think shes the most courages person in the world. it seems the more you care for someone the more grief you feel when they go. i dont think i'll feel guilty. i've quit my job and spend midnight till 7pm there every week day.
Any insights as to how many days after the bowel movements stop? she sleeps with her mouth open and her eyes half open and turned slightly back.
i know theres not much else to do, but it feels good to rant like this! thank you everyone whos reading.
i believe in not standing in front of nature takling its course and respect the dying process. i am shocked by my fathers death but understand he could not witness this anymore. and i pray for my mom, Mary, and everyone who goes thru challenging times for strength and guidance and love.

My mom is preparing her trip home and i am proud to have assited her in this last leg of her journey. i am afraid, but somehow feel courage and strength in between the seams that are ripping apart.

blessings to you all and thanks agin.
anastasia

Mom and dad forever in my heart.  I love you always. April 14 2009 mom passed and March 1 2009 dad passed. As my mom said to me 'What ever happens, be strong.'

20 (edited by tiapatty Wed, 08 Apr 2009 07:53:13)

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Anastasia,

You are very strong and a very good daughter. I honestly don't know how I would handle what you are going through, to lose a parent while you are caring for the other parent who is terminally ill is beyond what anyone should have to suffer. I pray for your strength to keep going.

I would ask the doctor for an honest assessment of how long she can continue in her condition. Also, can she be moved to a hospice facility? In the States, typically they would not keep a patient who is nearing the end in the hospital, not sure if there is a different protocol in Canada. In the hospice setting, there are services offered that may not be available in the hospital to help your mother and you and your family prepare for her death.


Patty

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

hello again,

its going from bad to worse. my mom hasnt had a bm for over a week and hasnt peed for 3 days. i keep asking what to do, and just today the nurse told me they could drain the pee and why didnt i say something sooner. i have never seen any one suffer as much as my mom is right now, begging to be relieved of her pee. i wish one of the nurses would ask if shes peed since i keep telling everyone here that shes continuously in pain and even the morphine and added pain killers arent working. I'm so angry and feel so bad that she could have been relieved earlier. they're putting in a cathater right now, and I had to leave and come right because i canniot withsatnd seeing someone  suffer to such a great degree and feel there is nothing to be done.

glad this forum is here once again, i feel like i will crack one of these days.

Mom and dad forever in my heart.  I love you always. April 14 2009 mom passed and March 1 2009 dad passed. As my mom said to me 'What ever happens, be strong.'

22 (edited by marions Wed, 08 Apr 2009 11:47:03)

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Natasha....I am hoping and wishing for your Mom to be relieved of her pain today.  Natasha, have you spoken with the attending physician?  Have they ever treated an GI cancer patient?  You might want to mention to either, the nurses, or physician, or both, that you are a member of Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation website therefore, the treatment your Mom is receiving is being observed by people from all over the world. The members on this site have first-hand experience with the progression of this cancer and are behind you, all the way.
My heart is with you,
Hugs
Marion

THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTH CARE PROVIDER

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

LD:  I think you might have gotten lost with the other posts somehow.  I am so sorry.  We are still  here for you.  I hope you come back.  My Mom passed away 3 years ago and I find this site informative and helpful.  Helps me to better understand the disease and that what I did was the best I could do.  No regrets for my part.  Just sorry as heck to lose a loved one.

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Natasha, I am so sorry for your loss of your father and then pain and suffering your mom is enduring with CC.  I truly don't think I could endure so much sadness and stress at one time, you are an amazing person.   I am kind of baffled by the treatment of your mother at the hospital.   Have they done ultrasounds on your moms abdomen to see if there is a bowel  obstruction?  Are they giving her laxatives of any kind?  has a suppository been suggested?  Your mom needs relief now.   Also, what kind of pain therapy do they have your mom on?  Is she wearing a patch of any kind, morphine?    It seems at this point the goal should be to get the pain controlled.
You are an incredible daughter, and I am sure your mom is so grateful for your loving support.  I pray  for strength for you and the pain to be relieved for your mother.
Peace
Barbara

The  Lord is my shephard

Re: What are the signs of impending death?

Hi Marjo,
I keep checking into this site since my husband past over 18 months ago.  It is helpful to me to read the experiences of others and is helping me realize that we did the best we could for my husband.  I have had many questions and they are gradually being answered and my mind put at ease.  This is a horrendous form of cancer and I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.   We all miss him terribly but are greatful to know that he is now in a far better place and no longer suffering.  I thank all who share on this site for the help they have given me and I keep everyone here in my thoughts and prayers because I know what they are experiencing.
LD