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Part 2 What Is a Person Experiencing As They Die?

In the last blog I referred to Dr. Malhotra, the specialist in the care of the dying.  She reportsalong with other health-care professionals that even though the dying person may be unresponsive, they can still hear and feel the presence of those around them. “ A fascinating study was published in 2020 where a neuroscientist found that some people can still hear while in an unresponsive state, up to two hours before they die,” she says.

This is an important tip for the dying person’s loved ones to be aware of what they talk about in front of their family member or friend.   It can also be a great comfort to know that your loved one can hear you giving them last messages and sharing feelings with them. “ I also encourage them to hold their hand, tell them they are there and the things that matter most (I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you oh, and thank you),” says the doctor.

If you have been around people as they died, you may have witnessed they’re having “visits” from someone who has died before. This can be disturbing to family members who don’t understand what’s going on. Fortunately, these experiences are actually comforting to the dying person. The medical profession title of them is ELDVs- end-of-life dreams and visions.

“Most of my patients have had similar experiences where they would have comforting visits and conversations with deceased loved ones and for some, religious figures. Other unique experiences that I have heard from patients were sensing the presence of a loved one in the room, calling out deceased loved ones names, being told someone is calling them, seeing bright lights, or just “being at peace,” Dr. Malhotra relates.

These events can be misdiagnosed as delirium.  Though ELDVs can be termed hallucinations, they do not need to be treated as delirium. As survivors, we can see these experiences as comforting events for our dying loved one. No matter what our spiritual beliefs are, as long as the dying person is feeling at peace and is comforted, that is what we can support.  We can choose to experience this as a way for the loved ones to feel like they are reuniting with other loved ones. We can “keep an open mind and open heart.”

Of course if these experiences are unsettling to the dying person there are medications that can be administered. Just like in life, everyone has a different way of processing their death. And as caregivers, it’s important to get the information and support we need to know how to deal with our individual loved one. Palliative care and hospice care have the experts available to support you with the physical, mental and spiritual tools that you need. All of our caregivers at Catalina In-Home Services have gone through hospice training. They know the importance of aiding the client in this last journey and supporting the loved ones as well.