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What to Expect When a Loved One is Dying of Cancer

written by: Time2go • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 12/24/2010

Losing a loved one is never an easy thing to deal with, but it best to prepare for a person's death so that the proper arrangements can be made. Learn what to expect when a loved one is dying of cancer.

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    Preparing for a Loved One's Death

    It is very important for a family to know what to expect when a loved one is dying of cancer, so that his or her last days on earth can be as comfortable as possible. Many people would rather spend their final days at home or with family members that are willing to take on the role of a caregiver. If there is no one capable of mentally or physically taking care of the ill person, then the other suggestion is to place him or her in a care facility that provides full-time care, such as Hospice.

    Discussing these types of arrangements may stir up some fragile emotions or maybe a little tension, but planning ahead is always best, and makes the process much smoother. It is normal for different emotions to occur during this time, but this is also the time when family and friends of the need to come together and discuss what is best for the person who will be approaching death.

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    How Long is the Life Expectancy?

    Often times, family members of the patient want to know how long it will be until he or she passes away, but this is never an easy question to address. There are various factors that can make it very difficult to determine a person’s life expectancy, such as the location of the cancer, or other diseases or illnesses affecting the person’s body. Doctors may be somewhat reluctant to estimate a person’s life span because they have to be careful not to instill any type of false hope.

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    Signs That a Loved One is Near Death

    Even though it is difficult to know exactly when a person will die, there are multiple signs and symptoms that commonly occur in the weeks prior to death. For those who are caring for a dying patient, here are some signs to look for:

    • Often times the person may request to change positions more frequently than normal.
    • He or she may no longer wish to partake in events that involve socializing or entertainment.
    • Spending most of his or her time sleeping, or showing signs of drowsiness.
    • Appetite has decreased tremendously
    • Abnormal breathing patterns (pauses in breathing).
    • Infections or wounds healing slower than normal (or not at all).
    • Swelling in different areas of the body.
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    Coping with the Loss of a Loved One

    Helping a loved one communicate his or her last wishes to family and friends is part of what to expect when a loved one is dying of cancer. It is important to support a dying loved one by any way possible. A good suggestion is to be as positive as possible.

    Remember, that it is okay to feel sad when a loved one is near death, but try not to display this type of emotion around the patient, so that when the day arrives, it can be as peaceful as possible.

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