Understanding Mental and Emotional Changes in End-of-Life Individuals

While dying is a normal stage of life, death is sobering to many end-of-life individuals.

Allow your dying family member the time he or she needs to be alone and rest, but make sure he or she feels loved. Provide company and emotional support when you can.

Mood Swings

Along with personality changes, individuals nearing death may suffer from severe mood swings. They may even be unaware of their sudden moods and actions.

Often, hospice patients lash out in anger at their own caregivers and loved ones. Do not take this anger personally. Angry words or behaviors toward you may just be a way for your loved one to express frustration, embarrassment, or discomfort.

Remember that your loved one may not realize what he or she is doing. Validate his or her feelings, and reassure your loved one of your support.

If your loved one’s mood swings worry you, talk with a hospice worker. He or she can help you locate potential reasons for mood changes in the patient, and provide ways to help.

If possible, discuss feelings with your end-of-life loved one. If it is not too upsetting to him or her, talking through emotions may bring healing and greater understanding to both of you.

Anxiety

In the end stage of life, your loved one may show signs of anxiety and restlessness. This may result from an unresolved problem within the individual or with another person. Anxiety may also arise from fear of death, of the unknown, or of leaving loved ones behind.

Hospice workers can help you identify potential causes for your loved one’s anxiety, and suggest ways to help him or her find peace.

Consider playing soothing music, discussing favorite memories, reading together, and sharing reassuring messages.

Confusion

As brain and judgment functions decline, your loved one may become confused about the day, time, others’ identities, or his or her own identity.

Often, those nearing the end of life mistake people in the present for people they knew in the past. Or, they may forget individuals altogether.

Give your loved one reminders about who you are, who he or she is, and what time and day it is. Help them by explaining the current situation and what you are doing.

Use soft and gentle words, and answer questions honestly. You may need to repeat information and reminders often.

Visions

Dying individuals also sometimes comment on people and places they can see that you cannot. This phenomenon is sometimes call ed a “deathbed vision.” Your loved one may seem to exist in two worlds or eras at once.

He or she may talk with deceased loved ones or with strangers, or comment on the surroundings in terms that do not match what y ou see.

Do not talk your loved one out of their vision. If appropriate, ask questions and listen.

These visions play an interesting and important role in dying. Often these deathbed visions bring comfort to a dying individual.

Take Comfort in Hospice Help

When someone you know draws close to dying, the mental and emotional changes they undergo may concern you. These internal changes are a normal part of the process of letting go of life.

If you have any questions about the way your end-of-life loved one is behaving, talk with a hospice worker for greater understanding and help.