Allies In Transition

How To Prepare For A Peaceful Death: Allies In Transition
Thoughts From The Field

Allies In Transition
April 18, 2004

In the first article, the final topic of discussion was centered on one of the signs of immanent death. Nutritious eating is considered one of the basics to sustain life. It should, therefore, be understood that this basic is no longer relevant when an individual is ready to die. This is one of the most difficult ideas for families and most caregivers. The act of preparing food and in many cases physically feeding a sick or dying loved one gives the caregiver something positive to do.

However, as the body slows down and physically prepares to stop, food can no longer be digested properly. If food is forced, it can often be harmful causing constipation or diarrhea, either symptom creates unnecessary pain for the dying individual. I am not recommending that someone who isn’t nearing the last moments of life be starved to death. There is a difference. If someone is barely alert, refuses to either open their mouth or can’t stay awake long enough to swallow, that is a signal that giving food isn’t useful and could be dangerous if aspirated into the lungs. This also applies to liquids as well.

It is far better to swab the tongue and lips with lemon glycerin swabs or a substitute. Home made substitutes are a popsicle stick or straight handled teaspoon wrapped in a 4x4 gauze pad and dipped in water with a few drops of mineral oil added for lubrication. The lips can be moisturized with Vaseline. As the body stops its physical functioning process, it may become severely dehydrated. This is normal but it is a difficult process to see for the caregivers. The tongue and lip swabbing may help not only the dying individual but the emotional comfort of loved ones who are there to say goodbye.

We have forgotten how to be humane to our dying loved ones in our need to be civilized. Remember, that animals, if left to them, will go off to a safe place, hibernate and die in peace. Humans generally don’t want to be alone in the process of death, but they also don’t want to be forced to remain alive for other’s sake.