We tend to forget that life is a terminal illness. We are born, we experience, and then we die. All of living is on the road to death. How is that for a downer?
The thing is dying is a part of living. Like living, it has stages – a road to travel. The road from birth to death passes through infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, old age, and ends at death. This is the normal dying pattern. However, not everyone “plays by the rules” so death can occur anywhere along the life road. Disease can occur anywhere along the life road also.
Then there is fast death. Fast death is just that: fast, unplanned, no warning, no pattern. Life just ends. No patterns or rules played.
Dying patterns are centered around food, sleep, and socialization. Assess those three areas and you can track the dying process.
In this blog I will focus on sleep.
Part of the natural dying process from disease is a person begins sleeping more. Starting two to four months before death from disease occurs, a person begins taking an afternoon nap. This progresses to both morning and afternoon naps. Then to both naps plus sleeping in front of the TV in the evening. Before you know it the person is in bed all day, just doesn’t get out of bed, is asleep more than they are awake.
In a person who is just old with no disease process, the sleep patterns are the same only instead of occurring over a period of months it slowly happens over a period of years. Remember dying can be from just being old. The body is wearing out and is slowly ceasing to function.
As family and caregivers we tend to push our loved one to be active, to get out of bed, to stay awake. Our belief, which is true in most of life, is if we don’t use our body, don’t exercise and stay active, we will become weaker and less able to function. This is not true for someone who has entered the dying process. We have to change our thinking, new rules apply.
Sleep becomes our friend. Our body is like a battery that is losing its charge. Sleep recharges our battery. It doesn’t fix the problem, but for a while it can allow the body to be a little more active. A nap before and after a planned activity may give a bit more energy to enjoy that activity. However, there will come a time in the dying process when the body is simply letting go of the need for being awake. It is letting go if its hold on this planet, of its need for the energy that sleep provides.
Something More… about Sleep Is a Sign of the Dying Process
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