good life, good death, good grief

How might someone's breathing change when they are dying?

As a person’s body becomes less active in the final stages of life, they need less oxygen, and their breathing may become shallower. There may be long pauses between their breaths.

Sometimes the person’s breathing may sound noisy or 'rattling'. This is likely to be because they are not able to re-absorb or swallow the normal fluids in their chest or throat, which can cause a rattling sound. In the very last moments of life, the person’s breathing pattern may change. Breaths may become much slower and quieter before they stop altogether. You can find out more here: breathing towards the end of life.

What happens when someone is dying?

Dying is unpredictable. It is not always possible to know for sure that a person is in the last days of life, predict exactly when a person will die, or know exactly what changes the person you are caring for will experience when they are dying.

However, there are certain bodily changes that show a person is likely to be close to death. It is normal for these signs to come and go over a period of days, and if they do go, this does not usually mean that the person is recovering.

Some of these changes may be distressing, but it can be reassuring to know what to expect and how to help. You can find out more about these changes and what you can do to help here: What happens when someone is dying?

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Bereavement Charter for Scotland