There are some signs and symptoms that can help you anticipate when your elderly parent is near death. It is important to realize that not all elderly folks experience these signs nor do these symptoms necessarily mean your parent is close to death.
Even if there is no response continue to talk to them as if they are listening. They still may be able to hear even after they are no longer able to speak. Do not shake them when they do not respond.
With signs of confusion gently remind your elderly parent of the time, date, or the people who are present. If they become agitated, do not attempt to restrain them. Remain calm and reassuring, speaking calmly may help them re-orient.
Giving them permission to “let go” can be helpful.
Loss of appetite
Allow them to choose if and when to eat or drink. Ice chips, water, or juice may be refreshing if they can swallow. Keep their mouth and lips moist with products such as glycerin swabs and lip balms.
Loss of bladder or bowel control
Keep them clean, dry, and as comfortable as possible. Disposable pads are helpful and remove them when soiled.
Skin becomes cool to the touch
Particularly the hands and feet. Your parent may not be aware of feeling cold.
Rattling or gurgling sounds
May be loud, irregular and shallow, decreased breaths per minute or alternating between rapid and slow. Breathing may be easier if you turn them to the side with pillows placed behind their back. This labored breathing sounds very distressing, but gurgling and rattling sounds do not cause discomfort.
Increased difficulty controlling pain
Contact your elderly parent’s doctor if the prescribed dose of pain medication does not seem adequate.
Additional sign that the end of life may be near.
The end of life time differs for each person. Do your best to comfort them as they pass on.