A Guide to Terminal Restlessness Among Hospice Patients

Person supporting sick family member

As much as dying is a fact of life most people prefer to avoid thinking about this topic. While understandable, it does mean that many of us are unprepared when facing the dying process, which makes the passing of a loved one even more difficult.

One common part of this process is known as terminal restlessness. In order to comfort their loved one through this experience, it’s important for the family and friends to understand what this is and how it is managed. Here is a basic guide from the team at our hospice residence in South Jersey.

What is Terminal Restlessness and How Can It Be Managed? 

This term, used to describe a mental state that many terminal patients move through during their final stages of life, is estimated to affect up to 85% of patients. The symptoms include agitation, restlessness, delirium, confusion and impaired consciousness. Many patients also experience myoclonic jerks (involuntary muscle movement) and twitches. Understandably, this is distressing for loved ones.

While the exact cause of these symptoms isn’t linked to one particular condition, caregivers will monitor any changes in mental state to ensure that any underlying conditions are treated. Common causes for terminal restlessness include hypercalcaemia (a metabolic disorder common to cancer patients), fever, organ failure, sepsis, drug interactions, increased pressure on the brain, or opioid toxicity.

Researchers also point to a likely psychological element at work here, in which patients are more aware that they are approaching the end of their lives. Whatever the reason, caregivers play a vital role monitoring mental state, offering spiritual and emotional comfort, ensuring treatment of any underlying conditions whenever possible, and offering sedation if needed. Specialists often recommend that loved ones try playing calming music, talking in a gentle and reassuring manner, and holding your terminal loved one’s hand to help reduce agitation.

Comfort, Compassion and Care at Our Hospice Residence in South Jersey 

At The Shores, a part of the well-known United Methodist Communities non-profit organization in New Jersey, we offer care in a compassionate, professional hospice neighborhood in the Jersey Shore area called Bridges.

It focuses on creating a nurturing and comforting environment for individuals and their loved ones through customized care programs and compassionate support. To find out more about our hospice neighborhood in Cape May County, please visit our website at https://umcommunities.org/theshores/hospice-care-nj/ or contact us today and schedule your visit.

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    205 Jumping Brook Road
    Neptune, NJ 07753
    Phone: 732-922-9800