Before funerals for our loved ones at funeral homes in Solvay, NY, we will, unless they have died suddenly or unexpectedly, watch them go through the active dying process. Medical professionals and hospice staff may use this term to describe what’s happening with our loved ones, but they may not explain what it means and what is actually happening during the process.
The phrase active dying is the last phase of the dying process. Prior to the active dying stage, there is a pre-active dying stages that is approximately three weeks in duration. The active dying stage, however, usually has a duration of about three days.
When our loved ones are actively dying, they are very close to death. We will see symptoms and signs that will indicate that death is rapidly approaching, including unresponsiveness, dropping vital signs, and shallow, rapid breathing.
While not everyone experiences all the symptoms and signs of the active dying process, most of our loved ones will experience many of them. They include:
- Breathing changes (shallow breathing, long pauses between breaths, and irregular breathing)
- Urine and/or bowel incontinence or decreased output of urine (urine will often be very dark)
- Skin changes (known as mottling, where blood pools at the surface of the skin)
- Body temperature changes (as blood flow decreases, blood will be directed to vital organs away from arms, hands, legs, and feet, leaving them very cold to the touch)
- Blood pressure and heart rate changes (blood pressure drops and heart rate slows)
- Agitation, hallucinations, and delirium
- Lung changes (fluid builds up and can produce gurgling noises during breathing)
It’s important for us to understand, as hard as it may be to believe, that the only suffering that happens during the active dying process is our own. Be design, when our loved ones’ bodies begin the final shutdown of life, they are in a very deep sleep that is not dissimilar to anesthesia. That is one of the reasons why unresponsiveness is often a symptom of active dying.
However, to ensure that there is absolutely no physical discomfort during the active dying phase, our loved ones are usually put on a morphine regimen, which increases as death gets closer. This intensifies the deep sleep our loved ones are already in, and they simply may not respond to anything at all.
However, they are still aware of their surroundings to an extent. For example, most medical professionals agree that hearing is the last sense to go in the dying process. So, we should make every effort to be with them during the active dying phase.
Since ears hear both words and tone, we should make sure that things are calm and peaceful. The active dying phase is not the time to fight and argue with our siblings (this could definitely bring distress to our loved ones), nor is it the time to have a bunch of sounds happening simultaneously at full volume.
The active dying phase should be peaceful. We might softly play music that our loved one likes and appreciates. We should sit with them, talk with them, read to them, and maintain physical contact with them right up to their last breath.
We should make sure, by the way, if our loved one wears hearing aids that they have fresh batteries and are being worn, because we wouldn’t want to think, months after they died, that maybe their hearing batteries died and they didn’t hear anything we said.
For more information about active dying at funeral homes in Solvay, NY, our compassionate and experienced team at Bagozzi Twins Funeral Home, Inc. is here to help you. You can visit our funeral home at 2601 Milton Ave., Solvay, NY 13209, or you can call us today at (315) 468-2431.