Palliative care - what the final days are like
St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

Palliative care - what the final days are like

What It Is

Dying is a process. Sometimes the process takes time. For a while, signs that death is near may come and go. Family and friends may need help understanding the signs that mean a person is close to death.

What You Might See

As a person gets closer to death, the person might:

  • Have less pain
  • Have trouble swallowing
  • Have blurry vision
  • Have trouble hearing
  • Eat or drink less
  • Lose control of urine and stool
  • Hear or see something and think it is something else, misunderstand
  • Talk to people who are not in the room
  • Talk about going to a trip or leaving
  • Talk less
  • Moan
  • Have cool hands, arms, feet, or legs
  • Have blue or gray nose, mouth, fingers, or toes
  • Sleep more
  • Have breathing that sounds wet, maybe with bubbling sounds
  • Cough more
  • Have breathing changes: breathing may stop for a bit, then several quick, deep breaths
  • Stop responding to touch or sounds, go into a coma

What You Can Do

  • If you don’t understand what you see, ask a hospice team member.
  • Let family and friends, even children, visit, a few at a time.
  • Help the patient get into a comfortable position.
  • Give medicine to treat symptoms.
  • If the patient is not drinking, wet their mouth with ice chips or a sponge.
  • If the patient is hot, put a cool wet cloth on his or her forehead.
  • Keep a light on. If the patient has blurry vision, darkness can be scary.
  • Play soft music the patient likes.
  • Touch the patient. Hold hands.
  • Talk calmly to the patient. Even if you get no response, he or she may still hear you.
  • Write down what the patient says. This may comfort you later.
  • Let the patient sleep.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor if your loved one shows signs of pain or anxiety.

Review Date: 6/12/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Back  |  Top
About Us
Contact Us
Locations & Directions
Quality Reports
Annual Reports
Honors & Awards
Community Health Needs

Brain & Spine
Sleep Medicine
Urgent Care
Women's Services
All Services
Patients & Visitors
Locations & Directions
Find a Physician
Tour St. Luke's
Patient & Visitor Information
Contact Us
Payment Options
Financial Assistance
Send a Card
Mammogram Appointments
Health Tools
My Personal Health
Spirit of Women
Health Information & Tools
Clinical Trials
Health Risk Assessments
Employer Programs -
Passport to Wellness

Classes & Events
Classes & Events
Spirit of Women
Donate & Volunteer
Giving Opportunities
Physicians & Employees
For Physicians
Remote Access
Medical Residency Information
Pharmacy Residency Information
Physician CPOE Training
St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile