As you near the end of your life, you will get more tired, spend more time asleep and may even become unconscious. You may not feel like talking much.
You will probably still be comforted from seeing or being aware of your loved ones sitting with you. You may enjoy listening to their conversation or to your favorite music or TV show.
Sometimes people are very aware of their surroundings right up to the moment of death. Some people may even choose when to die (medical assistance in dying). In other cases, people are unconscious and may not be aware of their surroundings.
If you are feeling anxious or are afraid to be awake until the very end, you should talk to your health care team. Very near the end of your life, your health care team may give you a medication to make you a bit sleepier if you want this.
Sometimes people get confused as they near the end of their life. This is called delirium.
Delirium is very common and is caused by the brain shutting down. Confusion can also be caused by medications, infection or complications of advanced cancer.
You may get restless or anxious from the delirium. If this happens to you, your health care team may give you medications to calm you or to make you sleepy. They will do this if you are close to the end of your life. These medications do not speed up your death.
Your health care team may suggest that your family limit their visits to only your closest loved ones. They may also suggest that noise is kept down to reduce your confusion.
It is normal that you will want to eat less and drink less as you near the end of life. As you get weaker and spend more time resting, you will need less food. You may have trouble eating and swallowing due to your cancer or cancer treatment.
In the last few days of your life, you will probably not eat at all and you will drink very little. This is normal as your body is shutting down.
Your body does not need food and drink at this time. You will not be starving to death.
If you are having trouble swallowing, your loved ones can give you thickened fluids, water on small sponges or ice chips for you to suck on. Vaseline on your lips can help with dryness and can be very soothing.
Your family may feel they need to keep feeding you to keep you strong. Your palliative care team will explain to them that they should not force you to eat and that it is natural to eat less at this time.
Palliative care teams do not give intravenous (through a tube put into a vein) feeding or intravenous fluids at end of life. If these were to be done, they could cause swelling or make it harder for you to breathe.
If you have pain at any time during your illness, you should tell your health care team. They can give you pain medications. Pain may limit your activity at end of life.
If moving is painful, you may have to stay sitting or in bed. Pain medications will make you more comfortable.