Knowing the symptoms of dying can offer peace of mind to both our loved one and ourselves as we go through this rite of passage. Whether we die from cancer, heart disease or a stroke, the process can be similar towards the end of life. The symptoms of dying are usually not as painful as we expect and anticipate.

The New York Times reports that dying is a diagnosis in itself. There is a progression that our bodies go through. Usually one organ will fail, and then another. Sometimes it happens all at once. No matter how long the process is, there are symptoms that are almost always present.

The symptoms of dying are usually most painful for those observing their loved one pass away. There are many ways to ease the discomfort for the patient and having hospice care can be a vital support both medically and emotionally.

One typical symptom of dying is the death rattle. This noise is a symptom of swallowing dysfunction and does not correlate with signs of respiratory distress. Medications to decrease saliva production can be used for this.

Another symptom of dying is air hunger. This is the feeling of not getting enough air. Doctors ease this symptom, usually by using opiates such as morphine. This increases comfort during the end of life.

Terminal agitation can be the most distressing symptom of dying to families of dying patients. Most families are surprised their loved one is experiencing rage and agitation as a symptom of dying. There are often physical causes of agitation, such as pain or metabolic changes, and there are medications to ease this.

We recommend that our clients at Arizona Elder Care are evaluated by hospice when they don’t want to deal with the medical system any longer – they don’t want to go to any more doctor’s appointments or be admitted to the hospital for end of life issues.  We recommend hospice way before our clients experience any symptoms of dying. Hospice will offer medical support for comfort medications, CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) support that includes bathing, social workers to offer emotional support and guidance, and occasional volunteer support to provide respite. Hospice enables our clients to die where they want, which is often in their own home. Some hospices have houses where a patient can go to die. Medicare will pay for hospice. And while hospice is an integral support system for one’s end of life, it doesn’t provide all the help that might be needed. For example, 24/7 caregiver support is not included.