Does death have a smell? - page 4

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   TigerGalLE
    Yes I've smelled it. The smell is extremely icky sweet with patients in liver failure. I think it is just the smell of multi-organ failure/death.

    I've had many CNAs say things like I've bathed them and bathed them and they still smell.... death usually follows shortly
  2. by   SAHMStudent
    Libitina- the pear drops to which you refer: do they come in a round white tin with a picture of the pear or other fruit and script on the front? I think I remember seeing these at World Market, maybe some specialty stores, Trader Joes or Whole Foods? I remember having different fruit flavors, tangerine and raspberry.
  3. by   fdorgham
    I've got to throw my two-cents in here. Yes, there is a smell. It is certainly not something imagined. It is so strong and sweet and overpowering to the point where it gets in your clothes! I've had the smell in my clothes and it wouldn't wash out.

    We had a pt who seemed to be taking a turn for the better. She wanted to get out of bed and was wheeled around the facility by staff and family but walking behind her, you could smell it. It was sad because you KNEW it was coming. She died 2 days later.

    Another oddity... It seems that a cat (never the same one) shows up at the front or back door about 3 or 4 days before someone dies and no matter how hard we try to keep it out, it makes its way in and curls around staffs legs and loves on everyone. The last two times it happened, we had 2 pts die the first time and 3 pts die the second time! We never thought to let it wander down the hallway and see where it ended up. I think that would be a little too much for me!

    Any similar happenings?
  4. by   fdorgham
    One of the CNA's I work with compared the smell to formaldehyde.
  5. by   kvisintine

    In the article, the doctor deduced that the resident nursing home cat could smell pheremones being emitted from the patients.

    In my personal experience, both my father and son (who passed after a 6 year battle with cancer) had a specific smell towards the end... it was kind of sweet and musky.
  6. by   Bill Levinson
    Oscar the Cat is famous for being able to predict when somebody is going to die. It is quite possible that he smells some kind of biological change.
    adds that it probably involves ketones.
    Last edit by Bill Levinson on Feb 3, '10
  7. by   Bill Levinson
    [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat
    David M. Dosa, M.D., M.P.H.
  8. by   CT Pixie
    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    After years in geriatric nursing, I can often smell death days before it happens. My olfactory system usually interprets it as a sickish, sweetish, sort of meaty odor---sort of like hamburger that's just about to go bad, only more subtle than that. Of course, I've never mentioned the aroma to a patient or his/her family......nobody wants to discuss such a thing. But I wonder sometimes if we nurses and aides are the only ones who smell it?
    EXACTLY! Sickish, sweetish sort of meaty odor! I've been working in LTC since I was 16 yrs old. I used to notice that smell as a receptionist when some residents would walk/wheel by or as they sat and chatted with me at my desk. Never connected "the smell" to the fact that a few days later I'd have their chart on my desk for filing away due to them dying. But as a CNA, I'd notice that smell, and sure as heck, that resident would pass within a week or so of me noticing that smell. It was then that I put the smell and the death connection together.

    Even now, I'll pass by a resident who's not even one of mine..and just KNOW. Not saying I'm psychic..just saying my nose KNOWS!

    I have my eyes and nose on 3 residents right now, one is mine, the other 2 are my co-workers. Sadly, my nose put me on alert about 2 wks ago. The smell was more noticable starting at the begining of my shift on a Saturday and even more noticable on the last few hours of Monday. The particular resident was going to the hospital for a scheduled procedure..overnight stay..nothing major. Well, here it is almost 2 wks later and she's still in the hospital..I fear my nose was right.

    You aren't odd, weird or freaky. I think some of us are just more in tune to our senses.
  9. by   ToxicShock
    I had a friend who claimed she could smell cancer. She was kind've... "out there" so I don't put much stock in her claims. I think anything is possible though.
  10. by   jenzmom
    This a.m. as I was commuting to the hospital, a radio show was on and the DJs were talking about a nursing home that had cats for the enjoyment of the residents. Apparently, one of the cats was quite gifted in detecting imminent demise and would go into the resident's room and lie on the bed. Shortly thereafter, the resident would die. They kept stats and apparently the cat has a tremendous record of detecting impending death in over 50 residents. In fact, they said that at one point, a resident appeared imminently to die and someone brought the cat into the room and put it down. The cat left and went to another room and within a short period of time, that resident died. The resident that the nurses thought was going to die rallied. A few days later, the cat entered that resident's room and the resident later died. The nurses said it was only this one cat that had that ability.
  11. by   hihopes
    Quote from AngelfireRN
    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 smell this sicky-sweet odor, and around a week later, the patient would be dead.

    It continues to this day. I have smelled Lord knows how many smells, but this one almost defies description. The only way I can compare it to anything is to think of really concentrated Swish and Swallow, that nystatin stuff. I love the way it smells, but this other smell is like S&S overkill.

    I finally started piecing it together when I noticed a pattern with the smell and the demise. My instructors never could understand why I would walk in a room to help, and get a weird look on my face. My co-workers later could not understand it, they just knew something was up by the look on my face. It was especially sad when the patient was thought to be improving.

    It happened with my FIL. DH knew that SOMETHING happened to me when a person was about to pass, and I had already told him that I was not going to tell him if I sensed anything. The last time I saw FIL was the only time I did not hug him. I would have bawled, and given it away. I regret not hugging him, but not like I would regret giving my MIL and DH 4 days of a deathwatch. Afterward, as we were headed to the funeral home, DH looked at me, all teary, and said "You knew, didn't you? You've been weird since we saw him the last time."

    Smelled it with my Grandmother, and squalled for 3 days solid, before there was really anything to squall about.

    And I smell it still, with patients I see in hospital. I hate this. It's as bad as getting that gut feeling to pull the code cart outside the lady's room. There is no more helpless feeling than knowing what is going to happen, and knowing just as well that you're powerless to stop it.

    Anyone else get this, or get an inkling as to the demise of a patient? I've heard about bad patients asking to have a BM, and nurses knowing that that was it, we've all heard about the "last turn", but does anyone else smell anything beforehand?

    Or am I just a freak?
    Some people say it smells like new born puppies, amniotic fluid. Is that what you have experienced?
  12. by   Haldaina
    I experienced that with my husband's grandmother. He laughed when I told him that, but after we visited with her I asked him if she has cancer, he said, "no". She died a few days after. I thought I was imagining it.
  13. by   Bill Levinson
    Quote from ToxicShock
    I had a friend who claimed she could smell cancer. She was kind've... "out there" so I don't put much stock in her claims. I think anything is possible though.
    I have heard that dogs can smell certain kinds of cancer. The cells doubtlessly emit a chemical that is not found in healthy tissue. I have never heard of a person being able to do it, though.