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Few know what to expect as the end approaches. But death, like life, is a process, scientists say.
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When a person has a terminal illness, it is common for people to withdraw from social life in the months before death. This means that the person may not be interested in certain things, such as work or recreational activities.
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“Often people [die] pay too much attention to the family and important things before they die,” said Dr. Nina O’Connor, director of health care at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
In addition, people tend to have less energy towards the end of their lives. This fatigue causes them to sleep more, often throughout the day. There are many causes of this fatigue. If a person has cancer, cancer cells can eat up a lot of people’s energy, said O’Connor. Also, irregular breathing can cause people to lack oxygen and have more carbon monoxide in their blood, which can lead to fatigue.
In addition, a person is more likely to eat and drink less, which means they do not get enough calories to function, said O’Connor. Dehydration can also lead to fatigue, said Dr. Michele Casey, regional medical director at Duke Health in North Carolina, is a former life scientist.
A person’s interest can drop for a number of reasons. The body can produce more catecholamines, chemicals in the blood that reduce appetite. Elevated catecholamines are common among people late in life, especially in people with cancer, O’Connor said.
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Many people say they see a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel long after near death. (Image credit: Singhanart/Shutterstock)
In addition, people may eat less because their intestines are not working, which means they have problems processing the food they eat. “It can sit in the stomach or make you nauseous,” O’Connor told Live Science. In addition, the sense of taste and smell usually starts to go away, so food and drink may not taste as good as usual, he said.
Advanced Alzheimer’s disease often has difficulty swallowing, and may forget to chew and swallow. “Sometimes they can’t physically eat,” O’Connor said.
It can upset friends and family when the dying person eats less. “In our culture, we take care of the people we love by feeding them,” O’Connor said. “When people are sick, we make soup and push Gatorade.
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However, loss of appetite and weight loss are common causes of death from many chronic diseases, he said.
Lack of energy can cause people to slow down. For example, they may move, talk and think more slowly than usual, and may need more time to talk, she says. Medications people take, such as certain pain medications, can also slow it down, as can electrolyte imbalances, O’Connor added.
“The physical exhaustion and vulnerability [of people towards the end] is profound,” said O’Connor. “Simple things, like getting out of bed and out of the chair, can be tiring – it can be a person’s energy for the day.”
Because of the lack of energy, the human body can struggle to regulate its temperature, which means it can be hotter or colder than usual, he said. [Why do we get angry when it’s hot outside]
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In the last days or hours before death, a person’s breathing can be incredibly shallow. It can be incomplete, last anywhere from seconds to an hour or two minutes, and it can be “terrifying for family members who are watching,” O’Connor says. “[But] everything that comes out of the body slows down and stops.”
Finally, some have what is called a “death rattle” when they breathe. This happens because people cannot cough or swallow the mucus that builds up in the chest and throat. This sound may not bother the patient, but it can be annoying for loved ones to hear. Disposing of the rattle, changing the patient’s position, draining secretions or giving medications that loosen secretions can help, said O’Connor.
Even if you walk slowly, hearing is one of the last senses. “When people go in and out of consciousness, we know they hear voices, especially familiar voices,” O’Connor said. “We advise our loved ones to keep talking, even if it looks like the person is asleep.
When someone dies, doctors usually look for cardiac death (when the heart stops beating) or brain death (when there is no electrical activity in the brain), said O’Connor.
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If a person is “vegetarian”, it means that there is no more brain function and life support to keep organs functioning. At that point, “life support is legally turned off because they’re dead,” O’Connor said.
These two categories of death – heart and mind – apply regardless of how a person dies. “It can be a sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart stops. It can be a terrible crisis, when someone has been bleeding profusely and then the heart stops because there is not enough blood,” said O’Connor. “Or you can have severe nerve damage and brain death, where your brain has no electrical activity, and your body will follow.”
However, there is clear evidence that people whose hearts have stopped but restarted can give an accurate, reliable account of what is happening around them, Dr. Sam Parnia, director of emergency care and rehabilitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City, previously spoke to Live Science.
“It will describe seeing doctors and nurses working; “It will tell you to know the complete, visual conversation that is taking place, which can be known about them,” said Parnia. The account was verified by health workers who were in the same room, he said.
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Some studies claim that near-death experiences are just another form of lucid dreaming, while others link these experiences to brain hypoxia.
For more information about the dying process, O’Connor suggests two online resources: The Get Palliative Care website offers information about palliative care, and the Hospice Foundation of America has resources on death, dying, and bereavement.
Editor’s note: This article was first published on January 29, 2014 and was updated on December 8, 2017.
Laura is the archeology/history editor and editor of Life’s Little Mysteries in Living Science. He also reports on science in general, including archeology and paleontology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science, and Spectrum, an autism research site. He has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association for his reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura holds a BA in English Literature and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. Louis and a master’s degree in writing from NYU. Anna said she felt like she was in a tunnel when she first felt the effects of DMT. Getty Images
This Is What Happens When You Die, According To People Who Died
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What happens when you die? Lying with her eyes closed on a chair in a dimly lit room, Anna * approached to find out.
But Anna didn’t die, or nearly die, when she entered what was described as another place. Instead, he was among 13 volunteers who agreed to take the powerful hallucinogen dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in a study conducted by a psychology group at Imperial College London, England.
The researchers, watching Anna spin her mind in the low light of a research room in one of the most prestigious research centers in the world, injected volunteers with psychoactive drugs to find out how close DMT can bring a person to the feeling of encountering death. .
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The DMT map is said to mimic the feeling of death so closely that people who take it describe hallucinations that represent the experience of death – mental phenomena reported by people who are close to, or believe that they are close to death.
A shaman started an event by giving Yage: a mixture of hallucinogenic ayahuasca and a psychoactive shrub, in La Calera, Cundinamarca, Colombia, on August 9, 2014. Researchers at Imperial College London gave participants DMT, an ingredient in ayahuasca. EITAN ABRAMOVICH/AFP/Getty Images
For the first time, researchers measured the likelihood of a DMT trip and near death. The findings were published in Frontiers in Psychology in August.
Hallucinogens (which occur naturally in our bodies) are better known as the main ingredient of ayahuasca, a traditional drink drunk in the spiritual ceremonies of certain indigenous peoples in the Amazon region. In recent years, such traditions have become popular with a number of Western tourists who want to expand their psychological horizons. That being said, ayahuasca is translated from the Quechua language as “vine of the dead” or “vine of the soul”.
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