Dying: What to Expect

Below is a list of signs that may mean death will take place soon. Every person is unique, as is their dying process. People may show some or all of these signs at different times.

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1-3 months

● Withdrawal from people and activities
● Talking less
● Eating and drinking less
● Sleeping more

1-2 weeks

● Confusion
● Talking to others not present
● Physical changes
● Heart beat speeds up or slows down
● Blood pressure goes down
● Skin color changes
● Irregular breathing
● Body temperature changes – hotter or colder
● Eating/drinking less or not at all

Days to Hours

● Sleeping most of the time
● Possible sudden burst of energy (will not last long)
● Restlessness
● Having a hard time swallowing
● More skin color changes
● More irregular breathing, long pauses
● Rattling or wet-sounding breaths
● Weak heartbeat
● Drop in blood pressure
● No urine, or little very dark urine
● Eyelids may not close


● Short breaths with long pauses
● Mouth open
● Does not respond

How to know death has occurred

● No breathing
● Possible loss of bladder or bowel control
● Eyelids slightly open
● No blinking
● No heartbeat
● No response
● Jaw relaxed, mouth open

What to do when death occurs

● This is not a medical emergency; nothing needs to be done immediately
● Take a moment to be with your loved one and say goodbye
● Call Hospice of the Piedmont
● A Hospice of the Piedmont nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, who will come and assist with final care, contact the funeral home, and provide any support needed.