Changes at the Time of Death

Over time as an illness progresses, you may need to provide more care. Symptoms may change in frequency and severity. Doctors and nurses can help you in managing any change in symptoms. It may also help if you talk to a doctor about any things that are worrying you.

Changes at the End

As a person is dying, they will experience changes. It is important that the person who is ill is free of symptoms like pain and nausea. Many people prefer to be alert. They like to be able to talk with those around them. People often eat and drink less and spend more time sleeping.

You or the person you are caring for may want to know what happens as death approaches. There are common changes that most people will go through. This can be a change in colour, in circulation or breathing patterns. This could be having less energy and being easily tired. The person may become restless or agitated, they may talk less or become confused. However, each person’s death is individual, just as their life is. 

Dying at Home

Something to consider is whether the setup is going to be hard to manage. At times, home may start to feel like a hospital. There may be extra equipment being supplied. There may be more and frequent visits from health professionals. Do not be afraid to ask questions.  You might want to know how to create a comfortable space and how to manage care and medication. You might want know what changes you may notice and what you can do. CarerHelp has a help sheet on Caring for the dying person (310kb pdf).

In the last few days

Often there are signs that death is imminent, and you can get family and friends together. Sometimes though, a person will die quickly without some of the warning signs. You may want to sit with the dying person, sometimes for many hours.

CarerHelp has a help sheet on Recognising Dying (261kb pdf). CarerHelp also has a help sheet on Ways to be there in the last few days (549kb pdf).

Immediately After a Death

The time after a death might be a peaceful time. You might also find it very distressing. At home there are things that you will need to organise. You may need to ring the doctor or palliative care nurse. Family and friends will often help you during this time. Sometimes just by being around.

Choice has a helpful checklist of What you need to do when someone close to you dies.

Resources for patients and carers:

Last updated 29 March 2021