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The Dying Process

The Dying Process

David Kessler (Director of Palliative Care, Citrus Valley Health Partners and Hospice) gives expert video advice on: What physical signs will indicate that my loved one is dying?; How will hospice make my loved one more comfortable before death?; How do I explain death to my children? and more...

What physical signs will indicate that my loved one is dying?

As your loved one becomes closer to death you are going to see a number of changes, some of them early on. You are going to see a withdrawal. You're going to feel like your loved one is sleeping more. We understand this is going to be a very disturbing thing for you to watch; to see your loved one begin to slip away. But, just know, it's natural for them to sleep more, to talk a little less; those are some of the early signs that are going to happen as they progress towards death. As things progress, your loved one will stop eating or their eating will decrease. This is very disturbing for families. I think one of the most asked questions of hospice providers of how can we get my loved one to eat. I think one of the realities that you have to come to is that your loved one is not dying because they're not eating, your loved one is not eating because they're now dying.

How will hospice make my loved one more comfortable before death?

Hospice is going to make sure that in your loved one's final hours are as comfortable as they can be; their pain is managed as well as it can be; that whatever your wishes are are honored; the family is gathered around, and whatever your needs are, that they're being met.

Will hospice help me understand what my loved one can and cannot hear?

Hospice will make sure that you understand in your loved ones that oftentimes they can still hear. Often families still have something to say to their loved one. So, we stress to families that hearing is often the last sense to go, and that we want to make sure that conversations we're having are conversations we would be OK with our loved one hearing. If there's still something you want to say to your loved one, say it to them. Say it to them out loud or say it to them just quietly inside yourself. Know that if you truly say something from your heart they'll hear it in their heart, whether or not they're still awake or not.

Will a hospice worker be present following death?

After your loved one dies, if a nurse is not there already, a nurse will usually come out to be there with the family, to help take care of things and to help you make all the appropriate calls that you need to make at that time. So, yes, a hospice worked will be present.

Will hospice help arrange for the disposition of the body?

Hospice is going to be very helpful in making the final arrangements and walking you through that process. They'll certainly encourage you to make them early on, but if you haven't that's OK. And after your loved one has died, they'll help you with the calls you need to make and arrangements you may need to make at that time. They're also going to make sure that you have time with your loved one. And just know after your loved one dies there is no rush. Take your time with your loved one. Be there. Make sure everyone has a chance to say goodbye. Don't let anyone rush you through that process.