Dear Barbara, My father is 95. He has been in pretty good health but has started sleeping a lot in the day and is not eating very much. Is it possible that this may be a sign that the end is near? Your blog says sleeping more and eating less is a sign that relates to months before death.
There are two ways to die, fast or gradual. There are two kinds of gradual dying. One is from disease (it can take months), the other is simply old age (it can take years).
With old age and no active debilitating disease process, all the signs of approaching death (less eating, more sleeping and gradual decline in social interests) occur, BUT they occur over years rather than months as it does with disease.
At 95 your father's body is wearing out and it will show the same signs of approaching death. As I said it will just take him longer.
The question becomes “what is old age?” When do these signs begin? I do not have a definite answer. It would be nice to be able to say old age begins at 70 or 80. BUT we can’t say that because old age is more than physical changes. Old age is also a product of our thoughts and our feelings. Old age is reflected in how we approach and have approached living. We die the way we have lived, and according to our personality. We get old the same way. We adjust to being old through the skills we have used throughout our lifetime.
Just as the physical body knows how to grow in a timely fashion, the body knows when to begin its decline. In “growing up” some begin the journey to adolescence at 11, some at 14. In our body shutting down some begin their journey toward the end of life in their 70’s, others in their 90’s.
No matter the timing, if we don’t die a fast death or develop a life ending disease we will begin the journey toward death. It is the cycle of life.
What to do about all this?
*When you notice the signs of gradual death from old age beginning (less eating, more sleeping), encourage the eating of high protein in small frequent quantities.
*Sleep recharges our body. Take naps if the body says ”I need to lay down.”
*Watch interactions with others. There will be less interest in activities.
A point of interest — When labor begins (the body actually shutting down), the things we look for (see Gone From My Sight), are the same for everyone; fast death, disease or old age.
Something More... about Is Increased Sleep a Sign of Approaching Death?
To understand the dying process while at the bedside of your special person, I suggest you read Gone From My Sight and it's companion booklet, The Eleventh Hour: A Caring Guideline for the Hours to Minutes Before Death. They are both part of the our bundle, The End of Life Guideline Series.