Does death have a smell? - page 7

Just wondering if anyone else has experiences like this? I first noticed it when I was in nursing school, and we were orienting on the floor. We would go in a room with a patient, and I would... Read More

  1. by   duygu
    I think smells have special pieces in brain like emotions or memories. it might be the situation of losing some relatives who were very close or not. there might be a smell which is remembered in that time then person can remember the situation with that smell. for example a scent can make you remember somebody, an odour can make you feel anything that you had felt before.
    It could come true in the situation of death.
    I also lost my relatives and show many death patients. So i dont think there is a smell of death, but i am believed in the smells of emotions.
  2. by   nunnurse1
    I too can smell an odor, but usually not until they turn the corner of no return, but I can usually tell when someone is going to die. So much so alot of my collegues ask me how much longer they will linger. I just say they and god are the only ones who know.
  3. by   tencat
    Nope. Can't smell it most of the time. Do I think it can be smelled? Yup. I have noticed differing odors on dying patients, but my sense of smell is not reliable or well-tuned enough to be consistent. I can only predict death within 48 hours out. And even then I use other criteria such as mottling and breathing patterns.
  4. by   FranEMTnurse
    Quote from shmily914
    I actually read an article in Reader's Digest that addresses this subject. It was talking about the cat at the nursing home who always knew which patients were going to pass away. The doctor said that when cells in the body die they release ketones, much like a diabetic, so that may explain the sickly sweet smell of death. Some people just have a more keen sense of smell then others. Now on the other hand, I've had some patients dying from cancer and their smell was not the sickly sweet smell. It was a whole other scent entirely.
    I have also had the cancer experience with several patients, and each one smelled like rotting flesh.
  5. by   onepowerfullady
    Quote from Jeenah11111
    I am a hospice nurse and most the patients have that smell the last couple days. It helps to give bed baths and use a nice smelling lotion.
    Is this because their body is shutting down?
  6. by   oncalllorraine
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  7. by   oncalllorraine
    yes, there is sometimes what i call the smell of death. i am hospice nurse. i have never known it to be anything but pungent, and one of the nicest things i have ever learned from a loving aide was the value of 'covering up that smell', so it does not become a lasting memory of someone's loved one. thats where febreeze or cologne, powder....whatever you can find,is a God send.and vanity being what it is, i hope and pray someone is there when i am near death, to make sure 'i smell like a rose'.
  8. by   TRUENURSE84
    this might not be related ,but i can tell if someone is dead just by looking in their photos ... they always have this strange & sad look in their eyes
  9. by   sunflrz321
    I've never smelled death persay myself, but I would guess that experiencing the smell with the event would have to happen enough times to make the connection in your mind. I have been fortunate that I haven't had enough experiences to make such a connection.
    I can identify the smell of someone in liver failure, renal failure, with pseudamonas, c-diff, and more. However I am fortunate to work in pediatrics, so we tend to children in acute organ failure, rather than chronic organ failure (which I associate with certain smells).
    I would not be surprised if it was related to the liver failure (which makes for a very pungent smell) and/or renal failure (which alters the chemical composition of both urine and sweat, since we can sweat off what we don't excrete through urine or stool).

    As far as the stories about animals identifying such a smell, I would guess that dying animals probably make similar smells when they are in organ failure. Given that cats and dogs have much stronger senses of smell than we do, it is not surprising that they can smell death/organ failure/ etc earlier.
  10. by   mstzydeco
    I am a hospice nurse and yes it is a smell on there breath. I call it the juicy fruit smell.
  11. by   David13
    This is such an interesting topic. I, too, am able to detect a very specific odor prior to death. I have discussed this peculiar smell with other nurses and, similar to the experiences of those who have responded in this thread, some know exactly what I am referring to and others haven't a clue.
  12. by   KKandria
    This is so weird...

    I'm not a nurse, but I remember smelling something "different" when my mother was dying. The first night they brought her into the ICU I smelled it. It wasn't any body fluids because she was still coherent and asked for washcloths often to clean herself, and got bathed.

    For some reason, to me, it had a yeasty sweet smell. Like imagine raw bread being left to ferment for a week, a very high concentration of that. It was sweet and musky, and kind of reminded me of beer...that's what I mean by yeasty.

    I still remember it to this day. I never smelled it ever again, although she was the only person I've been around that died slowly. She had heart and kidney failure, and most of her organs shut down slowly over time.

    I wonder if it's what you guys smell too.
  13. by   20772lpn
    I can also smell pending death, it is a rotting smell to me. I can smell it faintly on the breath at first and then it gets stronger as days go by. I've found that people look at me like I've lost my mind when I mention it...glad to see I'm not alone here.
    I work in assisted living where we have several hospice residents at any given time. When I notice the smell, I just encourage family members to spend more time, hold hands, and enjoy each other. Most family members will follow your lead and be thankful that you helped them be there for their loved one.
    For those of you with a sensitive nose like mine, use your gift to do good, don't waste it.