Urinary and bowel changes as death approaches

The kidneys often gradually stop producing urine as death nears. As a result, your urine will become dark brown or dark red. This appearance is related to the kidneys' inability to filter urine properly. As a result, the urine becomes extremely concentrated. Also, the amount of urine produced by the kidneys decreases.

As your appetite decreases, your bowel habits may also change. The stools, or feces, may become hard and difficult to pass (constipation) as your fluid intake decreases and you become weaker.

The doctor or hospice worker should be informed if you do not have a bowel movement at least every 3 days or your bowel movements are uncomfortable. Medicines to soften the feces (stool softeners) or to speed the passage of stool from the bowel (laxatives) may be recommended to prevent constipation. If you are unable to pass stools, an enema may be given to help cleanse the bowel.

As you become weaker, it is not uncommon to lose voluntary control of your bladder and bowels. A urinary catheter can be placed in your bladder as a means of continually draining urine. Also, disposable pads and underwear can be supplied by a hospice program or purchased at a pharmacy.

Last Updated: July 14, 2008

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