Helping someone close to death

There are lots of things that you can do to make someone as comfortable as possible in their final hours. These are a few things that, from experience, we know can really help to make a difference.

Image of Sue Ryder nurse holding a patient's hand

Visiting someone close to death during the coronavirus pandemic

If someone you care about is close to death, you may be worried about whether you can visit them and say goodbye during the coronavirus pandemic. Hospices, care homes and hospitals have some restrictions on visitors to protect vulnerable patients and staff, but government guidance says that people should be allowed to visit loved ones at the end of their life where possible. If you want to request a visit with someone, contact the hospice, care home or hospital directly.

Read our blog on coping when someone is nearing the end of life during lockdown.

Marie Curie has more information on visiting someone who may die soon and if you can’t visit someone who is dying.

How to make a difference

  • Use pillows or cushions to support them.
  • Sometimes, simply changing the position they are lying in can help them feel more comfortable. If it is difficult to move them, the health care team will help with this.
  • If they feel achy in a particular part of their body, often you can ease the pain using warm or cold pads.
  • Simply holding their hand can calm and reassure them. Complementary therapists can give tips and teach you how to do a simple hand massage.
  • Often they can find it calming just to have you there and to know that you are calm and not anxious.
  • Carers can give oral medication if needed, so it is important to know and understand the medications the person is taking.

If you are looking after someone at home, the specialist community nurse, district nurses, and the GP can help and advise you on making the person as comfortable as possible.

Can friends and family be there when someone dies?

It is often hard to decide whether you want to be there when your loved one dies. Many people do want to be present, but there is no right or wrong answer. It is hard to know exactly when someone will die, so it can be difficult to make sure you are there.

If your friend or relative is in a hospice, the healthcare team will do their best to make sure you can be there if you wish. They will be there to look after and support you as well as the person dying.

It's good to have an idea of who else wants to be there at the end – that way you can let them know what's happening in case they want to come and visit.

The whole family filled her room for the entire day, we took turns to hold her hand and tell her how much we loved her, to thank her for being the best wife, mum and grandma there was, and we joked and laughed about the past.

'My Grandma' -a quote from our Online Community