The significance of end-of-life dreams and visions

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Abstract

End-of-life dreams and visions, often of loved ones, are part of the natural dying experience. There are clear distinctions between these and delirium

In this article…

▸ The meaning of end-of life dreams and visions

In this article…

▸ The impact of these on patients and their families

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▸ How health professionals can respond to these experiences

Grant P et al (2014) The significance of end-of-life dreams and visions. Nursing Times; 110, 28: 22-24.

Background

End-of-life dreams and visions (ELDVs) have been well documented through history and across cultures. They appear to affect both dying people and their families deeply, and may be a source of profound meaning and comfort.

Aim

The aims of the study were to; document hospice patients’ ELDV experiences over time using a daily survey, examine the content and subjective significance of ELDVs, and relate the prevalence, content and significance of end-of-life experiences over time until death.

Method

Patients (n=66) in a hospice inpatient unit, between January 2011 and July 2012, were interviewed daily. The interview contained closed questions about the content, frequency and level of comfort or distress of dreams and visions.

Results

Most participants reported at least one dream or vision and almost half of the dreams and visions occurred during sleep. Nearly all patients reported that their experience felt real. The most common content featured deceased friends and relatives, followed by living friends and relatives. As participants approached death, comforting dreams and visions of the deceased became more prevalent.

Conclusion

End-of-life dreams and visions are commonly experienced during dying. These dreams and visions may be a profound source of potential meaning and comfort to the dying.

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