When someone is close to dying

What is it like when someone is close to dying?

For some people dying can be a gentle series of physical changes which are not medical emergencies. For others it can be quicker, and this can be unexpected both by patients and by carers. In both situations, when someone is close to dying, major organs slow down and the body begins to close down.

No one can say exactly what it will be like when someone dies. What we do know, is that the patient’s healthcare team will do their best to make sure the patient is as comfortable as possible.

What you might like to think about

It can be reassuring for patients and carers to talk together about dying and understand what they each think might happen. If there is anything that seems unclear to either of you about dying, ask your healthcare team.

It can be helpful to ask the patient where they would like to be at that time and for them to be able to express any concerns or wishes. This can provide a sense of control, which can be reassuring. For example, the patient may want to be at home, in hospital or in a hospice – and be aware that their thoughts on this may change over time. If the patient is happy for you to do so, it can be helpful to share their thoughts with the healthcare team.

“In hindsight, I wish I’d have known it was coming because we had no preparations, we didn’t talk about death”
– ‘Aaron’, former carer

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Page last reviewed: 08/05/2020