When most people are dying, they do so quietly. However, sometimes people who have not been lucid for years, will suddenly become so, not too long before their deaths.
From our perspectives, most people just seem to fade away until they stop. One moment they are breathing and the next they are not.
For a long time medical researchers have been interested in what that process is like for those who actually experience it. However, the reality is that it might never be known.
There are people who do not just fade away, however, as The New York Times reported in "The Gentler Symptoms of Dying."
Sometimes people who have not been communicative for a long time, will suddenly appear to be well again. Dementia patients can even have a period of lucidity, where they are able to communicate with loved ones like they could before they became ill. This normally occurs within a week of the person passing away and often on the same day.
This phenomenon is known as terminal lucidity and records of it go all the way back to Hippocrates.
Understanding what people go through when they pass away and why some people have terminal lucidity could be helpful for elderly people. This knowledge could possibly be used to give doctors a way to make passing away more comfortable.
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Reference: New York Times (July 11, 2017) "The Gentler Symptoms of Dying."