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Hospice and Palliative Care: Signs and Symptoms of Approaching Death
Your hospice team's goal is to help prepare you for some of the things that might occur close to the time of death of your loved one. Although we can never predict exactly when a terminally ill person will die, we know when the time is getting close, by a combination of signs and symptoms. Not all of these signs will appear at the same time, and some may never appear at all. All of the signs described are ways the body prepares itself for the final stages of life.
Your loved one may sleep more and might be more difficult to awaken. Hearing and vision may decrease.
There may be a gradual decrease in the need for food and drink. Your loved one will say he or she doesn't have an appetite or isn't hungry. This is the body's natural response to the dying process. The body is indicating that eating and drinking are no longer helpful -- that the body can't use food and fluid properly anymore.
What to do: Allow your loved one to choose when and what to eat or drink, even if this means he or she will consume little or nothing at all. Your loved one will probably tolerate liquids more easily than solid food.
What to do: Remind him or her of the time and the day and who is there with them. Be calm and reassuring.
Your loved one's hands, arms, feet, and legs may become cooler, and their skin may turn a bluish color with purplish splotches.
What to do: Use blankets for warmth. Do not use an electric blanket or heating pad.
Irregular breathing patterns may occur. There might be a space of time (10 to 30 seconds) when your loved one will not breathe at all. This is called apnea. There may be phlegm or increased secretions in the throat that are not painful, but are difficult to clear with a weakened cough. This is often more bothersome to the caregivers.
What to do: Position your loved one on his or her side, with the head elevated.
Contact your hospice team, or doctor or nurse, at any time if you have questions or observe changes.
Welcome to the Barbara Ziegler Palliative Care Program at Broward Health Medical Center
Palliative Care alleviates pain and symptoms and provides emotional and spiritual support in any severe illness to patients and families regardless of their age or ability to pay.
How does Palliative Care help you?
- It is available from the time of diagnosis for any serious illness.
- Provides support for patients of any age with any serious illness.
- It works as an adjunct to your medical team to bring optimal symptom relief and emotional and spiritual support.
- Assists in making treatment decisions and adjustments to the changes in you and your families' lives.
- Encourages you to live your life as actively and fully as possible.
Providing Palliative Care Service
- All that is needed is a written palliative care order from your primary physician.
- You do not give up any treatment you are currently receiving or your primary care physician.
The program includes inpatient, outpatient, and home care alternatives. Inpatient services are available at Broward Health Medical Center. Homecare is available through Gold Coast Palliative Care and Home Health Team.
Pediatric Palliative Care
Available to any youngster with any serious illness. Palliative care for children and adolescents is a personal experience for the family. The goal is to achieve the best quality of life and relief from suffering - physical, psychological, social, emotional and spiritual.
Our approach is family centered and focuses on the management of pain and symptoms as well as restoration of the body's functions while remaining sensitive to personal, family, cultural, and religious beliefs, values and practices. Learn more
Gold Coast Palliative & Home Healthcare
Provides continuity of palliative care services in the comfort of the patient's home. Learn more
Need a physician? Call the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400.
Fellowship Program for Palliative Care
2012 marks the 6th year of the Palliative Medicine Fellowship, which trains osteopathic physicians to do Palliative Medicine. It was originally accredited under the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and is now accredited under a five-year accreditation from AOA. Seven fellows have been trained through the program. Previous fellows have been successful in achieving their Certification of Added Qualification Board in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
The fellowship training program consists of inpatient, outpatient, home visits, hospice care, palliative and symptom management consultations, nursing home, and pediatric experience.