Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Signs of approaching death

An excerpt from my book...
Researchers show that cancer is related to the sequential mutations of key genes that control cell growth. Cumulative damage, such as exposure to carcinogens due to smoking or workplace risks, has contributed to the incidence rates. In addition, as seniors age, their defences are lowered and their immune systems become compromised. In a recent study (Balducci and Carreca, 2002), it was found that the diagnosis of cancer occurs eighty percent of the time at or above age fifty-five. Two-thirds of all cancer-related deaths occur in those over age sixty-five, and they found that patients over the age of sixty-five were less likely to be treated than those younger. While advanced age is not a contraindication to cancer treatment, we must be vigilant in determining the risk versus reward of treatment, based on studies that tend not to include older patients. The toxicity of chemotherapy presents great risks for those already frail and dosages must be carefully prescribed.

Signs of death
Signs of death are common to many illnesses: lack of appetite, lethargy, increase in time spent sleeping, vision problems, decreased urine output, refusal of food, liquids, or water, gurgling sounds, periods of apnea (stopping breathing), cool skin, high temperature, withdrawal, change in care recipient’s character, or the performance of restless, repetitive tasks (Heart’s Way Hospice, 2006).

A Web site entitled, “As Death Approaches” says: “The fear of the unknown was always greater than the fear of the known,” and that was true. It was comforting to know what to expect, not that all of this had to occur. She reminded me to look after myself, to take regular breaks. She said to talk to him and let him know I was there. She felt for his heartbeat, which was weakening. She showed me how to do mouth care and told me that the mouth care he had received so far was excellent. (I was still not giving up my day job!) Staff came in and helped check his position. Dad was moaning and he was twitching. He could have been having more seizures. His forehead, where the tumour was growing, was a brighter red than elsewhere.

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