#hospice signs of impending death
Cancer Health Center
Findings could help families prepare and aid in end-of-life care choices
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MONDAY, Feb. 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Researchers say they have identified eight specific physical signs that strongly indicate that someone with advanced cancer is entering the last days of life.
The investigators focused on telltale signs that a patient has, at most, just three days to live. The hope is that this information will help family members and other caregivers better handle an impending death, as well as be more prepared for choices that may have to be made during end-of-life care.
“I think the bottom line is that our study identified several classical signs that can be observed by the bedside by doctors, nurses and even family caregivers, which may help them to determine with confidence that the patient has entered the final days of life,” said study lead author Dr. David Hui. He is an assistant professor in the department of palliative care and rehabilitation medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
He also said that “we believe these signs may apply to both cancer and even non-cancer patients, because these signs occur as part of the natural process of dying.”
Hui and his colleagues reported their findings in the Feb. 9 online edition of Cancer .
To compile their list, the researchers monitored physical changes that occurred just prior to death among more than 350 advanced-stage cancer patients. They were being treated at one of two cancer centers: one in the United States and one in Brazil. All of the patients were in an acute palliative (end-of-life) care unit.
Physical changes were noted twice daily, according to the study.
During the study time frame, more than half (57 percent) of the patients died. And in the end, the authors settled on eight indicators that seemed to most accurately predict imminent death.
Those included: an inability to close the eyelids; diminishing ability to react to visual stimulation; a reduced ability to react to sounds and words; facial drooping; non-reactive pupils; hyperextension of the neck (this causes the head to tilt further back when lying down); vocal cord grunting; and bleeding in the upper digestive tract.