Changes That May Occur

Just before a person dies, and as death is occurring, the body changes a lot. These changes can happen in the hours before the person dies. Some changes happen two or three days or even months before death.

He/she may become unresponsive (as in a coma). Sometimes he/she may seem aware, and be "in and out" of consciousness.

He/she may become restless. He/she may talk to people who aren't there. He/she may seem like he/she is in pain.

Some people have involuntary twitches, which aren’t usually bothersome, but if so, medicines can help.

The dying person’s blood pressure may go down. The pulse and breathing may slow, and the skin may be blue or damp or cold.

Mucus may fill the mouth, causing a rattling noise. Turning the patient onto his or her side can make breathing quieter. Removing mucus from the mouth may or may not help.

As death nears, breathing may change. It may get faster for a while, then slow down. Or the breathing may be louder for a while, then get very quiet. If he or she is having a hard time breathing, medicines can help.

Output of stool and urine usually drops. The urine gets darker and he or she may wet the bed.

As the patient gets weaker or sleepier, he or she will communicate less. If you are sitting with a dying person, you need to take breaks. Sometimes, just stepping out of the room can reduce stress. If you wish to be with the person when he or she dies, tell others involved so they can help you do that.

Text provided by: Caring Connections A Hope and Comfort in Grief Program University of Utah Health Sciences Center Caring Connections is sponsored in part by the Ben B. and Iris M. Margolis Foundation.