You are here:

Life Support Issues/Reassurance for those scared


Dear Betsy
My mum passed away from illness, and whilst she was still living, she was scared of dying. I understand this is a very common experience. I forgot to ask her doctor what to say to offer comfort. What more can be said other than just to be brave in those times?


I am so sorry for your loss. Most patients are afraid of the dying process. While hospice care assures they do not suffer, mother nature has also put into place some mechanisms to assure comfort.

For example, most patients die after being unable to swallow liquids for a period of time. In animal studies it has been shown that the result of this dehydration causes their ketone levels in the body rise.  That makes the body produce endorphins.  Endorphins are what runners experience ("the runners high") and it reduces pain and gives one a sense of comfort. It is as if mother nature had a plan in place for us to die comfortably.

I have also witnessed in my hospice work that many patients have spirit relatives that come to visit in the final hours of their lives. It is as if they are living in two worlds as they transition. My mother had that experience and it made her going so much easier.

I hope this is helpful to you. Dying is something patients have not experienced and so it is natural to be afraid.  Most patients I have watched die, are very comfortable at the time of their passing. Anxiety can be medicated if needed. Medications to control pain and  shortness of breath are readily available.  

Life Support Issues

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Betsy Murphy


My expertise is in end of life care for adults. Identifying when someone is approaching the end of their life. Benefits and burdens of end of life treatments. Managing pain and other symptoms. Providing care for dying patients at home. Advocating for someone who is dying in a hospital or nursing home.


More than 28 years of experience in hospice care. Currently consulting with hospices to promote access for patients to receive hospice care earlier in the course of their illness. Betsy provides training for hospice marketing staff to effectively work with nursing facilities to help identify eligible patients. She writes Additional Development Request (ADR) letters to Medicare to help hospices get paid for their services and to avoid future claim denials.

Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association

Articles: Clinical Reviews, Advance for Nurses, Nursing Spectrum, Washington Business Woman,; Understanding Medical-Surgical Nursing (FA Davis and Company), Guide to Caregiving in the Final Months of Life (TM Brown publishers).

Bachelors of Science in Nursing, additionally trained as a Family Nurse Practitioner and certified as a hospice and palliative care nurse.

Awards and Honors
Outstanding Woman in Loudoun County (VA) by Loudoun County Commission on Women 1997 and 2002.

©2016 All rights reserved.