The person's final moments

Particularly in the last few minutes, the person's facial muscles may relax and they may become very pale. Their jaw may drop and their eyes may become less clear.

The person's breathing will eventually stop. Often, the person's body will completely relax.

Sometimes it can be difficult to identify the exact moment when the person has died. There may be one or two last gasps a minute or so after what seemed like the last breath. However, you should note down the time as close as possible to the moment they died.

This is always a profound moment, even when death has been expected for days. You may suddenly feel overwhelmed with sadness; you may want to be alone, or you may want to ring family and friends.

By this time you may be exhausted with the caring and the waiting, and the relief and finality of the moment of death can take you by surprise.

What happens after the person has died?

Once the person has died and you have noted the time of death, you may wish to respond in a way which is appropriate to you at the time. This could be by:

After this, there are practical steps you can take. For useful information on these, you could look at the 'What to do after someone dies' pages on the website. It covers the key steps you need to take, especially:

  • contacting a member of nursing or medical staff (if they died in a hospice or hospital), or their GP, if they died in their home or care home;
  • registering the death (which must be done within 5 days, or 8 days if you are in Scotland);
  • arranging a funeral.

I’d like to know more

The organisations and resources listed below can help you find out more about planning for end of life and hospice and palliative care.

Dying Matters

Dying Matters aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. They present useful information on subjects including making plans, writing wills, bereavement, talking to children about death and avoiding misconceptions about dying. All the leaflets are freely available to download and print from their section.

Care for children and young people

Together for Short Lives is a UK-wide charity that speaks out for all children and young people who are expected to have short lives. The Together for Short Lives Charter sets out what families should expect to receive from their local children’s palliative care services in terms of information and support.

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