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Research Article

Signs and Symptoms of Impending Death in End-of-life Elderly Dementia Sufferers: Point of View of Formal Caregivers in Rural Areas


Objective: The aim of the present study was to clarify the signs and symptoms of impending death in end-of-life senile dementia from the point of view of formal caregivers in rural areas.Patient/Materials and Methods: We used qualitative data based on retrospective analyses. The data was gathered following a workshop on end-of-life care of the elderly with dementia attended by formal caregivers that was held in Iga City, Mie Prefecture, Japan, in September 2011. There was a total of 29 workshop participants. The workshop products were created in the first session of the workshop entitled “Signs of death.” During the session, we used the brainstorming method, and participants took turns stating at least two signs, symptoms or premonitions of death. In the end, there were 93 cards in total displaying signs of impending death observed in the end stage of dementia. These 93 entries were then classified into clear categories.Results: The categories defined were breathing disorder, consciousness decline, vital power decline, reduced oral intake, feces disorder, calm and peaceful character, blood pressure decline, change in skin color, patient odor, edema, preagonal vital power, body temperature decline, bedsore/wound deterioration, body weight reduction, cyanosis, and oliguria. The most frequently cited symptoms fell in the breathing disorder category (12 cards), followed by consciousness decline (9 cards), vital power decline (9 cards), reduced oral intake (6 cards), and feces disorder (6 cards). Also frequently mentioned were symptoms falling in the calm and peaceful character, patient odor and preagonal vital power categories.Conclusion: The results show that formal caregivers in rural areas identified breathing disorder as a top indicator of impending death in end-of-life senile dementia cases. The results also highlight some other characteristic signs of impending death, such as preagonal vital power and calm and peaceful character. This research could help develop formal caregivers’ observational skills in the end-of-life care settings.