Confusion and Delirium

Unknown-2Patients nearing death may often have fluctuating degrees of awareness and confusion about time and place where they are, and about the identities of those around them. They may report visitations by those who have already passed away or speak of having conversations with them. Although medically termed as “delirium” and “auditory/visual hallucinations” with various patho-physiological explanations, these phenomenon are well known and well accepted facts by those medical professionals who care for the dying.

As the time of death approaches, your patient may exhibit increased restlessness and/or repetitive actions, such as pulling at bed linens or repeatedly reaching for something in the air that is not visible to anyone else but the patient. This is sometimes referred to as “terminal anxiety.” You may also observe increased confusion as your patient is closer to death.

imagesFor devotees of Lord Krishna hearing the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra or listening to a soft bhajan (soft, musical chanting) may decrease the restlessness often experienced in this later stage of a terminal disease.

(Please Note: At this point in your patient’s condition, loud drums and kartals/cymbals , even the playing of a harmonium, may add to his/her agitation and restlessness. Soft chanting, quiet voices, and dim lighting are recommended at this time.)

Reading Krishna’s pastimes aloud (such as in Krsna Book) may also help to ease anxiety. Speak calmly and assuredly and never in a tone which can be taken by the patient as condescending. Soft lighting and decreased environmental noise and other stimuli may help to relax your patient as well. (From “The Final Journey” page 190)

UnknownFinally, in his book, “How We Die,” Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D. writes,

“When a man is dying, the walls of his room enclose a chapel, 

and it is right to enter it in hushed reverence.”

I have found this to be very important to remember. 


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