Sunday, January 09, 2005

Symptomatology of Dying 6: Seeing / Talking to the Deceased

As a review, some of the symptoms of dying that I have mentioned in previous posts:

One to three months prior to death:
-Spiritual Distress
-Nausea & Vomiting

One to two weeks prior to death:
-Picking at Clothes / Tubing

Days or Hours prior to death:
-Fixed stare (Eyes glassy, tearing, half or fully open)
-Death rattle
-Wavering level of consciousness

Next I want to discuss when dying people see and/or talk to people who are already dead. This is a common occurrence.

Tip #1: Don’t argue with them and tell that that they are “just seeing things.”

Tip #2: Don't necessarily tell them that the dead person is coming to take them to the "other side." Case in point:

My great-aunt has been in the hospital recently for malnutrition. She has esophageal diverticula that make it very difficult for her to eat, as food gets caught in these pouches that are in her esophagus and cause her to cough and gag. As a result of this discomfort, she stopped eating altogether. Without food, she started losing weight. Finally she got to the point that she no longer had the strength to get around her house and she was bed-bound. That is when she finally agreed to go into the hospital to have a feeding tube put in.

After she was in the hospital for some time, she got transferred to a nursing home so that she could undergo physical therapy so that she could walk again before going home. While in the nursing home, one day she saw a man walk by her door who looked remarkably like her father. He was very smartly dressed just as her father had always been. She started watching for him regularly. She was so tickled that he looked like her father that she decided to tell one of the nurses and to inquire about him. The nurses response was:

RN: Oh, ma’am, they comin’ to get you.

My aunt relayed this story to me on my next visit. I have to admit, as she told me about this man who looked so much like her father, I had the same gut reaction. “Is my aunt dying? I had no idea that she was that sick!” But I held my tongue as she continued the story.

When she told me what the nurse had said, she finished the story, “Can you believe she said that? I just about wrung her neck!” I had never heard my aunt so angry in all my life.

Moral of the story: Accept whatever the patient says they see / hear as real. It is real for them whether they are seeing ghosts of people who have passed on or if they are seeing people whom they think look like people who have passed on. If they say “I saw my father this morning,” then they saw their father. If they say, “I saw someone who looked like my father,” don’t assume they saw a ghost.

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