Breathing at the end of life can take on different patterns and is often called “death rattle” or “agonal breathing”. This type of breathing can be distressing for the individual and their loved ones to witness, but it is a common experience during the dying process.
The death rattle is a sound that occurs when there is congestion or fluid in the lungs and airways, and the individual can no longer clear this fluid effectively. This can cause a gurgling or rattling sound with each breath.
Agonal breathing, on the other hand, refers to a series of irregular, shallow breaths that occur as the body begins to shut down. These breaths may be spaced apart and progressively shallower and slower over time.
While death rattle and agonal breathing can be difficult to witness, it’s important to remember that these are normal processes that occur during the dying process. The hospice team can provide guidance and support to the patient and their family during this difficult time, helping to ensure that the individual is comfortable, cared for, and supported throughout the dying process.