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Caring for someone at the end of their life

When you learn that a friend or relative is going to die, it is normal to feel a wide range of emotions, and you may deal with it differently to other people around you. It is completely understandable if you feel sad or angry. It could be a devastating shock that takes a while to sink in. You might be worried about what your friend or relative will be feeling and what they will have to go through physically and emotionally in the coming days, weeks or months. It is even completely natural to feel a bit relieved that you at least have all the information now and can plan for the time you have left with them rather than living in limbo.

When you think ahead to what it will be like to care for your friend or relative as they near the end of their life, you may be worried about what is to come. You may wonder how you will manage with the challenges that lie ahead. But remember you are not doing this alone. There is a lot of support out there to help you. And think of the incredible difference you will be making by being there for your friend or relative at this challenging time.

Below we explain a bit more about what might happen next with your friend or relative as well as how best to support someone who is nearing the end of their life. We also provide some information and advice for you as their carer.

Although it may be tough for you to face, some carers find it helpful to learn more about what will happen next with their friend or relative. In our guide ‘What will happen to the person I care for as they near the end of their life?’, we have put together some information that might help. We cover who will help to look after them from now on, as well as explanations of common terms you may come across. We also describe in detail what their finals days and hours may be like, if you would find it helpful to be prepared for what they might experience.

It can be hard to know exactly what to do in order to support someone who is at the end of their life. You might feel a bit helpless and unsure what you can do to make it better for them. In our guide ‘How can I help someone who is near the end of their life?’ we discuss some things that you can do. These include assisting with medical tasks, doing everyday chores, providing emotional support and helping them to plan for the future.

It is very common to worry about the financial implications of looking after someone at the end of their life, and it can be confusing to understand what financial support is available and how you can access it. To help, we have got a full and comprehensive guide to everything from benefits to grants in our 'Getting financial support as a carer' guide.

Caring for someone who is dying can be a big responsibility, and you may worry about how you will juggle this with working too. Or you may want to try and take some time away from work to spend with your friend or relative in their final days and weeks. Take a look at our guide 'Working when you are caring' for more information about what all your options are.

Caring for someone at the end of their life can have a very significant impact on your relationship with that person.

Sometimes caring for someone who is dying can improve your relationship with them. Some carers find that they become closer with their friend or relative through spending more time with them. You may feel that the seriousness of the situation enables you to put small grievances behind you. You may also feel incredibly privileged to get to have this special time together and find it a rewarding experience.

But often becoming a carer for someone can put new strains on your relationship. You may find yourself missing the way your relationship used to be, but also feeling guilty for not enjoying every moment you get to spend with them at the end of their life.

For advice and support on ways to manage some of these changes, take a look at our guide 'How your relationships can change when you become a carer'.

As a carer it is common to prioritise the person you care for’s needs over your own. This is particularly the case when you are looking after someone who is dying, as their time feels limited and you may want to temporarily put your needs to one side. But it is still vital that you make sure you also look after yourself. Caring for someone at the end of their life can be incredibly emotionally and physical demanding. And not only are your own needs important in themselves, you also need to stay well so that you can keep looking after your friend or relative too. In particular, if their illness will last weeks or months rather than days, you need to pace yourself and see it as a marathon not a sprint. Take a look at our 'Looking after yourself as a carer' guide for advice on how to keep yourself well, including information about how to deal with difficult emotions.

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

Online support
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