Differences in death procedures between adults and children

Specialties Hospice


I am still just a pre-nursing student, but I am wondering about death procedures for personal reasons. A few years ago, my husband died from a brain tumor and under hospice care he followed the key points of death that were outlined in a book I was given. When he started his "fish out of water" breathing, he died within about 6 hours. The hospice nurse was able to pinpoint it to the hour. Well, I just recently had a friend who lost a child from cancer and when she was dying she seemed to hang on forever. It was awful. She went through that last stage of death for almost a week. There were at least five times we were sure she was gone and then she would take a huge breath and still be alive. So is this typical? I was just wondering if the management of death was different between adults and children. I'm sorry if this is a sensitive subject but I guess since I am pre-nursing I am more curious than I would have been otherwise

i'm sorry about your husband, and hope you are adjusting.

as for children, whether they are living or dying, their inherent resiliency is evident at all times.

let's face it, it is the MOST unnatural act in life, to die at a young age.

everything about the human body demonstrates that children are just supposed to live...

even in death.

and that is why we see these deaths that seem to take forever.

because they shouldn't be...period.

unlike a middle-aged or senior adult, whose resiliency is such, that there remains little hope in the ability to sustain oneself, nevermind thrive and flourish.

older bodies just aren't equipped to deal with trauma/stressors...

whereas children are.

hoping my rambling made some sense to you??:)


Specializes in LTC, Psych, Hospice.

mambojennifer, I'm sorry about your husband and friend. As always, that was a great answer, Leslie!

Specializes in PICU, NICU, L&D, Public Health, Hospice.

what leslie said...and consider that children in hospice often have a single "thing" which determines their prognosis...a cardiac anomoly, bad cancer, etc...whereas the "typical" adult hospice patient often has co-morbidities involving other and sometimes diverse organ systems...so they may have a "single" hospice dx (that thing which has generated the terminal prognosis), however, at some point their diabetes, or liver disease, or renal disease, or lung disease, or GI disease (etc) will complicate and likely accelerate the actual "act" of dying...damaged and marginally functioning systems fail much more quickly than young and healthy systems.

Most kids have never smoked a cigarette, had a martini, do not suffer from IBS or diverticulitis, have never had a kidney infection, etc, etc, etc. Pediatric hospice is a sad, sad specialty that has it's own very specific nuances.

God bless you pediatric hospice people. I don't have enough faith to work with dying children.

Very good explanation, Leslie!

Specializes in Hospice.

I have cared for many pediatric patients in my line of hospice work. In my experience children either die very quickly (usually from a heart problem) or they die very slowly. We actually had a little girl who was dying for nearly 3 weeks. Children also often need increased doses of medication for comfort. Many of them seem to metabolize medication much faster than adults. Overall, they are much less predictable than adults. I am so sorry for the losses in your life.

Specializes in LTC, Psych, Hospice.
God bless you pediatric hospice people. I don't have enough faith to work with dying children.


Specializes in kids.

Just found this thread as my (step)grandson is actively dying from late stage brain tumor (PMA).....so heartbreaking to watch him lay still there...he is well medicated and appears to be comfortable. He is home with hospice care.....

He has been blind in one eye for a while and I think his vision is gone completely. The few times he has had his eyes open, he seems to be staring right through you :(

I have had some some finger squeezes but not much more than that in a week or so...has not eaten in > week...HOW does his lil body do it?

I'm so sorry to hear this. Your family will be in my thoughts.

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