What signs indicate death is near?

Hospice care provides relief from pain and symptoms at the end of life. The following provides an overview of the signs and symptoms indicating death is near. Please remember each patient’s experience is unique, and these may vary.

It may be challenging to determine if someone is “ready” for hospice care. But if the below lists describe your patient, it may be time to contact us.

Patients meet the medical guidelines for hospice care if they have a prognosis of six months or less.

Three to Six Months Prior to Death
•Recurrent infections
•Continued weight loss
•Swallowing difficulties
•Shortness of breath
•Nausea/vomiting that does not respond well to medications
•Increased pain
•Increased edema or ascites
•Progressive weakness/fatigue
•Change in level of consciousness
•Increased confusion
•Increased ER visits/hospitalizations
•Decrease in ability to perform ADLs
•Increased skin fragility

One to Three months Prior to Death
•May withdraw from friends and family
•Spends more time sleeping
•Gradual decrease in eating and fluid intake

One to Two Weeks Prior to Death
•Sleeping most of the time, but can be roused
•Changes in skin color
•Decrease in blood pressure
•Changes in breathing
•Continued decrease in food and fluids

One to Two Days Prior to Death
•Difficulty or inability to swallow
•Decrease in blood pressure
•Changes in breathing
•Congestion or respiratory secretions
•Sleeping most of the time
•Mottling—blotchiness to skin
•Surge of energy or alertness
•Fluctuating body temperature
•May or may not have pain

If you see these signs of decline, please contact us for more information about starting hospice services or learn how to refer a patient to hospice care. We will have a conversation with you, free and with no obligation, to learn more about your specific situation and needs.