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What should I know about death and dying?

Katie Ortlip
Hospice Nursing

First of all, you should know that while every death is unique, there are stages of dying that people go through, similar to the stages of labor during birth. Unless someone dies suddenly, people go through these stages in their own time. Just as the body knows how to give birth, it also knows how to die. For example, months before a person dies, they begin to lose interest in eating and usual activities. They often start sleeping more and more. As months move to weeks before death, they withdraw from others, eat less and sleep more, until they are in bed all the time. We need to respect this process, not forcing food and fluids in, and letting them rest and control what they can.

You also should know that not all dying people have pain. Some of my patients have very little discomfort, needing only small amounts or no medication. Most of them die peacefully at home. When asked, most people say they want to be at home, surrounded by loved ones when they die. It's important that we share our wishes with our families and fill out advanced directives, which state what care we want at the end-of-life. 

Also, you don't have to go through dying alone. Get hospice involved early on in the dying process. They support both the dying and their families, controlling symptoms, and teaching them what to expect. Dying is part of life and doesn't have to be terrible. I have found that the more people learn about dying, and the more they plan for it, the more it happens where and how they want.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.