While individuals may differ in their signs and symptoms of dying there are some common indicators that a person may be in the final days of life. These include:
At this time it is important to consider the costs and benefits of interventions and medicines. Priority should be given to maintaining comfort and dignity through adequate symptom control. Active treatment for long term conditions may be simplified or ceased, for example discontinuing medicines where comfort is not affected, such as anti-hypertensives, prophylactic anticoagulants, etc. It is also important to consider the route of delivery for medicines as the ability to receive medication orally may deteriorate.
Prescribing information: for managing common end of life symptoms
This webpage provides prescribing information for common symptoms when death is likely in days, including anxiety and emotional distress, delirium, excessive secretions, nausea and vomiting, pain and shortness of breath. This information is based on the PalliAGED – ‘Prescribing in the terminal phase’.
There are legal regulations and laws concerning death certification and coronial procedures, these vary between states and territories. Life is to be declared extinct and depending on which state or territory you are in this may be done by a nurse or doctor. Certification of death must occur which is usually by the general practitioner. In some instances deaths must be reported to the coroner.
The After Death Care section of the CareSearch website has information on things to be done after the patient has died including:
Checklist - Planning for an expected home death
A checklist for GPs when planning for an expected home death. Main topics include:
Page updated 11 December 2023