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As your loved one nears the end of his or her life, you may notice changes in sleeping, eating and breathing as body systems begin to slow down. The patient may take in minimal food and liquid, which will progress to the point that all he or she desires is to keep the lips and mouth moist.

Sleep may increase to the point where he or she will become comatose. Breathing may become more irregular, perhaps even with short periods of apnea. Congestion and a rattling sound may become apparent because of the inability to cough up saliva and secretions. Hearing and vision will decrease.

It's not unusual for a dying person to have visions, especially of others that are already deceased. It's best not to correct or express doubt with your loved one. Instead, offer support and ask about what he or she sees and what the person in the vision is saying.

Be sure to inform your healthcare team about any of the above changes so they can confirm that these changes are, in fact, due to end-of-life.

last updated on Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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