Dying is inevitable. But for most humans, it remains one of the most mystical and mysterious events that they often find themselves asking plenty of questions about the end of life.
It’s time to uncover some of the most pressing questions and their answers:
1. Is Dying Painful?
In some cases, it is. Many say it is not. Pain is very rarely the cause of death for terminally ill cancer patients. Moreover, the drugs available today are many times stronger than those used in the past and can be more effectively administered to reduce suffering.
Furthermore, new findings suggest that pain itself may not be the most distressing symptom during the final days of life. In the final stages of dying, it is often fear and discomfort—the loss of control and autonomy—that can lead to suffering rather than the pain itself.
2. What Happens When a Person Is Actively Dying?
This can vary by individual, but one thing is for sure: A person who is actively dying will not be able to communicate with others. The patient may begin refusing food and water or even be totally unresponsive. There may also be signs that the end is near, such as sudden respiratory distress requiring a ventilator or cardiac failure or both. If you suspect that someone is actively dying, speaking with the patient’s doctor is important.
3. How Long Does It Take to Die After a Terminal Diagnosis?
There isn’t one answer to this question because everyone dies in their own way. Some people die within days after their diagnosis, while others can linger for weeks or months.
For some people, death can be very sudden and unexpected. If you are with someone who is dying, the doctor may be able to give you a sense of how long your loved one has based on other cases she has seen, but each case is different. However, regardless of how long or short the patient’s life is, they can always count on support, such as palliative and hospice care.
Palliative care and hospice care are different. Palliative care is a type of medical care that focuses on relief from pain and other symptoms. It can be used in conjunction with curative or life-prolonging treatments to provide relief from the side effects of treatment and improve the quality of life for people with a serious illness.
Hospice care provides support for both the patient and their loved ones during the final stages of their terminal illness. This type of care is designed to help with whatever is most troubling or distressing for patients and their loved ones, whether this means counseling, spending more time together, or providing medical care to keep the patient comfortable.
But both work to provide the best quality of life the patient can receive. In fact, today, those who are seriously ill can now consider getting home nursing care if they are not comfortable passing away in a healthcare facility.
4. What Is the Difference Between Hospital and Home Hospice Care?
Both home hospice care and hospital hospice care can keep a person comfortable during the final stages of life. Hospice home and hospital nurses have specialized training in end-of-life issues and provide more personal care to their patients who are actively dying at home.
In addition to caring for physical symptoms, they address emotional, social, and spiritual issues. The nurses will often talk with the patient’s loved ones to find out what is most important to them—and then help make that happen.
Hospice care also provides counseling for both patients and their loved ones and respite care for family members who are struggling to take care of their own medical needs.
But a huge difference is that in home hospice care, patients are usually allowed to have more people visit them, although this can vary depending on the patient’s needs. Hospice also typically provides support for caregivers even after the patient has died.
5. What Does It Mean to Not Be Resuscitated?
This order gives permission for doctors not to use CPR or other life-support techniques if the person’s heart stops beating or they stop breathing. The order also prevents doctors from starting artificial respiration if a patient’s lungs fill with fluid.
This means that when a person has this order, they allow the death process to begin in hopes that it will be gentle and less painful. But it is important to note that this process does not begin right away. Instead, the person must be in a terminal condition—meaning they are dying because of an incurable illness or injury—and can no longer survive with life support.
The more we learn, the more we find out there is still a lot to discover about what happens when you die. Keep in mind, though, that death remains a personal experience. It will never be the same for everyone.