Quite like every person leads a unique life so does a person’s impending death have its own individual circumstances. Understanding this very real fact of life and death, there are some commonplace hallmarks associated with impending death. For example, if a family member or other loved one is in hospice care, there are signs that death is near. There is a death timeline that is relatively common when a person is heading towards the end of his or her life.

One to Three Months Before Death

If a person has been diagnosed with a fatal disease or illness that is progressing, or if an elderly person is heading into the final stretch of life, there are some signs that death may be in the offing beginning at a point in time between one to three months from the end. There are some common signs experienced in many instances when a person facing impending death at the one to three month milestone that include:

  • Sleeping, dozing, or napping more
  • Eating less
  • Drinking less
  • Talking less (with the caveat that a terminally ill child tends to talk more)
  • Withdrawal from others, including family and friends
  • Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed

One to Two Weeks Before Death

Within the final couple of weeks prior to passing on, there are certain tell-tale signs that death is approaching. These include:

  • Different sleeping and waking patterns
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of thirst
  • Fewer, smaller bowel movements
  • Less urine production 
  • Increased pain
  • Changes in breathing and heart rate as well as blood pressure 
  • Ups and downs in body temperature that can leave the skin looking pale and feeling warm, cool, or moist
  • Breathing congestion (caused by a buildup of phlegm in the back of the throat)
  • Confusion
  • Dazed appearance or look

At this stage, a dying person is apt to hallucinate. Dying people oftentimes report seeing deceased people who played roles in other parts of their lives. Indeed, they may carry on conversations with people that are not present. There is no need to try and convince a dying person that he or she is hallucinating, particularly when they draw comfort from these experiences. In addition, there certainly is a school of thought that suggests a thin veil exists between life in the present and what exists in the proverbial “great beyond.” Some people do believe that communication from one realm to another may be possible. 

Days to Hours Before Death

With the final hours approaching death, a person is likely to stop eating and drinking altogether. Bowel movements and passing urine may also cease completely. A dying person near the end may fade in and out of consciousness or be unconscious entirely. During this time period, an individual heading into his or her final hours on Earth may scowl or grimace and moan as if in pain. He or she may be experiencing pain or emotional stress associated with the end of life. 

The outward signs of approaching death in this stage can be troublesome to family and friends. The key is to bear in mind that these changes in a dying person’s body represent a natural progression from life. The outward signs of impending death at this stage include:

  • Eyes tearing up
  • Eyes glazing over (it may even seem as if a dying person’s eye color has changed)
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Skin on hands, feet, and knees become a bluish-purple color (typically within the final 24 hours)
  • Breathing slows and can become gasping, until it stops completely.

At the End

During the last hours of life, a period that can extend a day or two, a dying loved one may become quire restless and try to climb out of bed. A loved one at this juncture may become highly confused, even experience terribly upsetting hallucinations. 

When a dying person is experiencing these states, the objective of family members and friends in attendance is to try and keep a departing person calm. Soothing music, as well as loving, reassuring conversation, can help. Gentle touches can also be useful, including holding a dying person’s hand. 

Medication may become the order of the day at the end. In the United States, this oftentimes includes morphine to assist with any pain a dying person experiences during the final transition.  

When to Say Goodbye

There will come a time when loved ones need to say goodbye to a dying person. More than a few experts in the field of death and dying believe that a dying person oftentimes desires to hear their loved ones assure them that is ok to transition. 

Many times, family and friends holding vigil with a dying person step out of the room for a short time. Precisely at the time, when all are absent from the room, the dying person passes on. It’s almost as if a dying person was unable to finally depart while others were immediately around.

In the end, only a family member or other loved one can determine when the time is right to say goodbye. So much depends on the specific circumstances surrounding an individual’s passing. 

With that said, even if a dying person seemingly is unconscious, medical experts believe it is very likely an individual in that state can hear and process what is going on around him or her. Thus, a loved one should not avoid saying goodbye even when a dying person appears to be unconscious.