Final Days: Signs Death is Near

Changes will naturally occur in the body as one draws nearer to end of life. Each person’s experience is unique. People may experience some, all or none of the following signs that indicate death is near.

One to Three Months Prior to Death

  • May withdraw from friends and family members and things they once enjoyed
  • 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 awakened
  • Changes in body temperature and skin color
  • Changes in vital signs
  • Changes in breathing
  • Continued decrease in food and fluids
  • Confusion, disorientation and dreams

One to Two Days Prior to Death

  • Sleeping most of the time, difficult or impossible to wake
  • Difficulty or inability to swallow
  • Fluctuating body temperature
  • Mottling—blotchiness of skin
  • Continued changes in vital signs
  • May or may not have pain and trouble breathing
  • Changes in breathing, including apnea
  • Congestion or respiratory secretions
  • Restlessness, agitation and muscle twitching
  • Open eyes
  • Surge of energy or alertness

Minutes & Hours Before Death

  • Impossible to wake
  • Gasping breaths with periods of apnea
  • Circulation slows
  • Falling body temperatures
  • Watery, glassy eyes

If you or your loved one lives with a life-limiting illness, Hospice of the Red River Valley can help. When you’re ready to learn more, contact us. We’ll visit with you at a time convenient for you, free of charge. If hospice care is right for you, we will do the follow-up work, including contacting your doctor, starting the necessary paperwork and arranging a visit with a hospice nurse.