This is some material adapted from the Mayo Clinic that I have used with families as they await the death of a friend or family member. I hope you find this, and others coming, to be of help.
Caring for a dying loved one isn’t easy. Even when you know the end of life is near, you might feel unprepared emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Understanding and knowing what to expect — and what you can do to increase your loved one’s comfort — can help both you and the one you love. A pastor or others in pastoral ministry can be of help to you.
It’s difficult to predict exactly when someone will die. As death approaches, however, your loved one might show signs indicating that the end of life is near. Look for:
- A loss of interest in friends or favorite activities. There may be glazed eyes with no sign of recognition. Do not take this personally, for there is no awareness of your presence.
- Drowsiness, sleeping more, or having intermittent sleep.
- Restlessness and agitation.While sleeping, the person might frequently change positions or pull at the bed covers or pajamas. Sometimes this can be a sign of pain.
- Loss of appetite.Your loved one might eat and drink less than usual. Trying to force them to eat or drink can cause food and water to be sucked into the lungs and pneumonia or other breathing problems could develop. It is normal to want to feed them, for we feel guilty, thinking we are not caring for them properly.
- Pauses or other changes in breathing.This could happen when she is asleep or awake.
- Reports of seeing someone who has already died.Sometimes he may also tell you that he has seen Jesus, or heard music, or has seen a friend or family member who has died.
- She might also experience a brief, final surge of energy. Though it can be confusing to see her with renewed vitality, remember that this is often a normal part of dying. If it happens, take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy her and say your final goodbyes.
For many families, keeping vigil near a dying loved one’s bed is a way to show support and love. If you decide to keep vigil, continue talking to your loved one, for hearing is one of the last things dying people lose. They can hear when there is no evidence of connection with the external world, so take care what you talk about at the bedside.
If you think he or she would want to share this time with others, invite family members or close friends to show their support as well. Express your love, but also let your loved one know that it’s OK to let go and be with Jesus.