July 5, 2024

Understanding the End-of-Life Journey

Understanding the End-of-Life Journey: What to Expect When Your Loved One is Under Hospice Care

Knowing your loved one is nearing the end of life can be a very difficult time. Hospice care is here to provide comfort and support for both your loved one and your family during this emotional journey. This blog offers information about some of the physical changes you may see as your loved one nears death.   Important Note: Everyone experiences death differently. The timing and specific changes will vary from person to person. This information is meant to provide a general understanding and should not be a cause for alarm. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask your hospice nurse or social worker.  

Physical Changes You May Notice

  • Decreased Appetite and Thirst: As the body prepares for death, the body’s need for energy naturally decreases. This can lead to a loss of appetite and thirst [1].
  • Increased Sleep: Your loved one may sleep more and become less interested in their surroundings [1]. This is the body’s way of conserving energy.
  • Changes in Breathing: Breathing patterns may become irregular, sometimes with shallow breaths or short periods without breathing [2]. This is usually painless and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
  • Changes in Body Temperature: Hands and feet may feel cool to the touch as circulation slows down [2].
  • Changes in Elimination: You may notice a decrease in the frequency of urination and bowel movements [1].

Other Considerations

  • Pain Management: Hospice care prioritizes comfort, and pain medication will be adjusted to keep your loved one comfortable [2].
  • Emotional and Spiritual Support: Hospice social workers and chaplains can provide emotional and spiritual support for both your loved one and your family [2].


  • You are not alone. Hospice staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns.
  • It’s important to take care of yourself during this difficult time. Make sure you are getting enough rest and eating healthy meals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends, family, or hospice staff.


[1] WebMD. (2023, April 12). What to expect when your loved one is dying [2] Hospice Foundation of America. (2023, January 11). Signs of Approaching Death