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How to tell if someone is dying

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  • polkipolki Forumite
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    I cannot add to what has already been said, but I have been in your position and my thoughts are with you and your loved ones.

    Take care of yourself and take comfort that you are doing your best in a very difficult situation.
  • edited 18 October 2019 at 4:57PM
    svainsvain Forumite
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    edited 18 October 2019 at 4:57PM
    Having cared for my wife at home until she died. The biggest tell-tale was her breathing quickened and became very shallow .... This lasted for two-three days (from memory) and then she passed. I was out the house (dentist) when it actually happened and it bothered me for a short while that i wasn't with her at the point of passing but it wasnt something i let hold me down for long. The bigger picture was the important thing
  • Skiddaw1Skiddaw1 Forumite
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    It's not uncommon for death to occur when the person is (often briefly) alone. It's quite a well-known phenomena. My sister died when we'd popped out of the room to grab a coffee and my father died very shortly after we'd left the nursing home (everyone expected him to go on for a day or two longer). I was actually with my mum at the moment she died. Her breathing changed quite suddenly and then stopped.



    Whenever and however it happens, I hope her passing is gentle and easy.
  • seven-day-weekendseven-day-weekend Forumite
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    I think that’s actually quite common, as if the dying person ‘hangs on’ as long as their loved one is around for their sake but slips away quite soon after they leave.

    This happened to me, my adopted mum died just after I had left to go home to have a meal and a shower.

    I think sometimes they just don't want loved ones to see them die.
    (AKA HRH_MUngo)
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    Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology: Terry Eagleton
  • swingalooswingaloo Forumite
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    My mother in law was not expected to make it through the night but the following morning she seemed so much better and asked me to call her hairdresser but then suddenly deteriorated later in the day and just went to sleep.

    My dad on the other hand was on end of life care in the hospital and they had told us they were just keeping him sedated and comfortable. I rang his brothers and told them that the end was near (as we had had several false alarms over a couple of weeks but I said I thought this time it was definite) and they travelled overnight to see him. The following morning I had to meet them at the hospital entrance and explain that he was now sat up chatting and eating soup!

    Ive had 4 people close to me pass away in the last 5 years and each time they have seemed to rally round a few hours before the end. I actually left the house to get some shopping when my mother in law died as I was convinced she was not in immediate danger and felt so guilty as I was not there right at the end.

    I also think that they know when to let go and will hold on to see someone they want to say goodbye to. Its very hard to deal with, take care of yourself.
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  • StoodlesStoodles Forumite
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    Thanks so much for all your replies. So many deeply personal moments, and I'm grateful you were able to share them.


    Mother has recovered somewhat but is still in bed. She is now able to get to the loo with her walking frame and the assistance of only one person. She tried sitting in her chair yesterday, but that was too tiring.


    As she refuses to go to hospital we are trying to put together enough carers to support her round the clock. She has three visits a day from the NHS, to do dressings and personal care, but she isn't happy to be left for more than 30 minutes. The emergency care organisation are waiting to pass her on to one of two other bodies, but they need to know first whether her prognosis is under 3 weeks, up to 3 months or longer. Bizarrely, the doctors say only one person can make that decision and they are on holiday for a week. I have a feeling there is conflict between the two organisations, as they seem very willing to tell me to tell the other to do X,Y or Z, but unable to co-operate to achieve it.



    The cracks in the health and care system are really showing. Yesterday I spoke with Social Services to get a list of possible overnight care agencies, and was told to call back later if none were available. When I called back the phone was answered by someone who said "If you are calling about something non-life threatening you have to ring off and call back tomorrow". Not a recorded message, but a real person who was determined to get me off the line.


    We contacted 32 agencies yesterday. In the end the only way round it was to get back to Social Services, insist she was in danger if left at night and agree to be invoiced for it without any financial assessment, and for her to agree to have a male carer. So we have three nights, and I'm about to start looking for the next four, and then for someone to live in. If I was a 90 year old woman I'd be uncomfortable being left all night with a male carer who was taking me to the loo and sitting in my bedroom, but thank goodness she was brave enough to overcome that.



    The NHS say they should be providing the overnight person, but they only have one, and she has been moved to the mobile night team as they are short handed.
  • elsienelsien Forumite
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    It's all a bit of a minefield, isn't it. I'm pleased for you that mum is rallying.
    Just to forewarn you, it is unlikely that either the LA or the NHS will agree to fund overnight care or a live-in carer for any length of time. If mum is able to fund it herself, that's one option but if she and you can't afford it you need to start preparing yourselves for a plan B.
    It may not come to that, but forewarned is forearmed.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
  • edited 22 October 2019 at 10:54AM
    StoodlesStoodles Forumite
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    edited 22 October 2019 at 10:54AM
    Yes, we're happy to fund it, and already are because that is the only way to make it happen. But it's hard to find anyone, and it is very frustrating when we know that right now the NHS agree they should be doing it but don't have capacity. Her condition is still bad enough that they would take her straight to hospital if she would go, so it's a health issue not a social care one.


    Apparently we need to ask for a Continuing Care Assessment, but that can take an age to get sorted. Meanwhile we are very lucky that we can afford to throw money at the situation to fix it. I can't imagine how an elderly person without that resource or anyone to chase things up copes.
  • Skiddaw1Skiddaw1 Forumite
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    It's a bit of a mare isn't it? Can't add anything constructive Stoodles, but please accept a hug from me.
  • elsienelsien Forumite
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    CHC should have a fast track process.
    However in my area ( and I don't know how much of a postcode lottery there is) they will only fund 4 visits a day and not overnight calls. If someone needs more than that then they start looking at nursing homes. And it is specifically around health needs - support with washing or using the toilet (for example) would generally be a social care need. Sadly, that's the reality of not having an integrated system.

    If you get the chance it is well worth looking up the Age Uk factsheets or giving the advice line a call so you are prepared for the criteria used. Mum being palliative won't automatically meet the criteria for full funding.
    All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

    Pedant alert - it's could have, not could of.
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