Last month, we discussed the burden of looking after our loved one, who is terminally ill. We shall consider what to expect when our loved one has only few weeks to live.
What to expect in the final weeks of life
It is common for a patient to exhibit some, or all of the following symptoms, during the final weeks of life ;
• Little interest in eating and drinking. Swabbing glycerin on the mouth and lips, and placing a moist wash cloth on the forehead may keep the patient comfortable.
• Desire to be alone or with very few people. Keep the environment quiet and calm.
• Sleepiness. People terminally ill usually spend increased amount of time sleeping. Allow them sleep, with intermittent monitoring by a medical personnel, so as not to drift into coma
• Restlessness. Rather than restraining restless motions, we should speak calmly and reassuringly to the person.
• Imagination. Run riot with your imagination of swapping places. Imagine yourself the one terminally ill. How would you feel? Then transpose a complementary compassion of that feeling, and show it to the person lying prostrate near you.
• Disorientation. Identify yourself by name, whenever you visit a terminally ill patient, and listen with respect even if the person seems confused.
• Incontinence. Get a qualified medical personnel to insert a catheter with a urine bag, and every body must learn how to empty it when full, with adequate measure of sterility. This is to avoid unpleasant, pungent and embarrassing odours around your loved one. Keep the patient and his bed clean to the extent that is possible.
• Breathing changes. A moaning sound while exhaling may merely be air passing over the relaxed vocal cords. Turn the patient to avoid aspiration into the lungs.
• Congestion. Raising the head with pillows, may help to prevent the patient from gagging.
• Skin colour changes. These are often due to the body’s directing blood to the core to support vital organs.
Acknowledge the reality that your loved one is terminally ill.
• The very notion of a loved one dying is often distressing. No wonder, death is unnatural. We were not designed to accept death as a normal part of life, even when it is staring us on the face. So a reluctance to think about the death of a loved one is understandable, or even normal.
• Nevertheless, anticipating what may occur can help family members to ease their fears and focus, on making things as comfortable as possible.
• After the death of a loved one, it may be wise to contact a close friend who has previously agreed to help.
• Caregivers and family may need to be assured that their dear one’s trial is over, and that he is no longer suffering.
• The Creator of humankind lovingly assures us that “the dead know nothing at all.