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:

  • carrying out a particular ritual or ceremony, if there is one that is important to you or the person who has died, and your culture or beliefs;
  • simply sitting and being with the person.

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.

What does hospice care mean to you?