DYING Young or Old, The Signs Are The Same

Dear Barbara, Most of your blogging about death seems to be about old people dying from old age. What about a prime-age person dying of cancer? Do the same signs of dying apply, such as unresponsiveness or the physical changes like mottling? My husband is 34, and has stage IV cancer.

I am sorry my message about signs of approaching death has been misinterpreted. I have not said these signs apply only to old age. SO--- let me be clear. The signs of approaching death from disease OR old age apply to any age. From babies to 120 (and beyond) we all die in the same way, animals included. The only difference between someone dying from disease (at any age) and someone dying from old age with no disease is time. For someone with a disease, any age, the process will begin 2 - 4 months before death actually occurs. Someone who is just old with no disease process may have the same signs for years.

This brings the question how old is old? I don’t have a definite answer. Is 70 the new 60 and 80 the new 70? It appears some people’s bodies are old at 80 while some are not so old well into their 90’s. This is where the signs of approaching death are helpful. If a person with no known (no matter the age) disease begins sleeping more, eating less, and withdrawing from engaging in the events around them I would suggest making an appointment for a complete medical work up including checking for depression. If they are given a clean bill of health, then know that life is just moving forward. As we age our interests seem to change. Our bodies often eat less and sleep more. This process goes on for years---just a normal progression. Also know that how we approach death will be affected by our personality and how we have lived life.

There are other signs of approaching death that indicate a person with a disease (at any age) has weeks to live. The major things to look for are restlessness, sleeping with eyes partially open, breathing changes, puffing, and start and stop breathing. In the elderly, with no disease process, those changes can last for months. It isn’t until death is days to hours away that all of us do the same thing and in the same time frame. That is when a person will be non-responsive and mottled.

For more details on the dying process read Gone From My Sight or watch New Rules For End Of Life Care

Something More about DYING, Young Or Old The Signs Are The Same? My latest film, This Is How People Die is essential education for those working with end-of-life. Gerontologists, Social Workers, Chaplains, Oncologists, new Hospice Nurses, Volunteers, Nursing schools, all benefit from this scope of this film. Although meant for professionals, we have heard from family members who have a dying loved one and have seen this film. They were grateful for the comprehensive information and aren't as fearful about what lies ahead in their journey.

Related products

1 comment


So my question is, do children do the “unexplained” signs as end of life such as visioning and the “death reach”? Given that they have probably not known any one or many people who have died?

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published