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Ending Stages of Life

Below is an excerpt from the guide "Gone from My Sight" by Barbara Karnes, RN. At Canon Hospice, we provide this guide to our patients and their families so that they might better understand the ending stages of life.


For more information, please contact our facility and ask to speak to our Chaplain.

"Each person approaches death in their own way, bringing to this last experience their own uniqueness. What is listed here is simply a guideline, a road map. Like any map, there are many roads arriving at the same destination, many ways to enter the same city.

Use this guideline while remembering there is nothing concrete here; all is very, very flexible. Any one of the signs in this booklet may be present; all may be present; none may be present. For some, it will take months to separate from their physical body, for others, only minutes. Death comes in its own time, in its own way.

Death is as unique as the individual who is experiencing it." 

Summary of Guidelines

One to Three Months

  • Withdrawal from the world and people

  • Decreased food intake

  • Increase in sleep

  • Going inside self

  • Less communication

One to Two Weeks

Mental Changes

  • Disorientation

  • Agitation

  • Talking with the unseen

  • Confusion

  • Picking at clothes

Physical Changes

  • Decreased blood pressure

  • Pulse increase or decrease

  • Skin color changes: pale, bluish

  • Increased perspiration

  • Respiration irregularities

  • Congestion

  • Sleeping but not responding

  • Complaints of body tired and heavy

  • Not eating, taking little fluids

  • Body temperature: hot, cold

Days or Hours

  • Intensification of one to two weeks' signs

  • Surge of energy

  • Decrease in blood pressure

  • Eyes glassy, tearing, half open

  • Irregular breathing: stop, start

  • Restlessness or no activity

  • Purplish, blotchy knees, feet, hands

  • Pulse weak and hard to find

  • Decreased urine output

  • May wet or stool the bed


  • "Fish out of water" breathing

  • Cannot be awakened

If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, you may want to consult your primary care physician about hospice. If you have any questions about this guide or our hospice services, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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