Where would you like to be cared for?

Wherever you are looked after at the end of your life, the most important thing is that you get the care you need and your symptoms are controlled. Deciding where you would like to be cared for can depend on what you would like, what help you will have and the services available.

Many people choose to be cared for at home, if they know they will get the care they need.

However you and your carers may decide that you should be cared for in a hospice, nursing home or hospital. Or you may change your mind about staying at home if your needs change. Some people spend a short time in a hospice or hospital and then come home again. Others may go to a hospice day service. These options are all part of making sure you get the expert care you need and your carers are supported.

Wherever you are you can still be surrounded by people and things that are important to you.

Choosing where to die

Often the choice of where you’ll die depends on what you want, what help you have from family and friends, what services are available in the area you live and your medical condition. Most people prefer to die at home, as long as they know they will have good quality care.

Wherever you’re cared for, the most important thing is that your symptoms are well controlled and you get the care you need. This can happen in a variety of places. Even if you choose not to die at home, you can still be surrounded by people and things that are important to you.


Staying at home

Staying at home allows you to be in familiar surroundings with close family or friends to care for you. It may help you feel more in control and may make it easier for you to say your goodbyes.

It’s important that you and your carers have as much support as possible. Different healthcare professionals and voluntary organisations can help manage any symptoms you may have and support you and your family at home. If you’d like to be at home, let your nurse or doctor know.

We have more information about being cared for at home.


Hospices

Hospices specialise in caring for people who have a life-limiting illness and may be approaching the end of their life.

The staff are experts in controlling symptoms, such as pain, and providing emotional support. You can go into a hospice for different reasons. This may be for a short time to have your symptoms controlled or for a period of respite care to give your carer a break. You may decide that you’d like to die in a hospice. If so, you’ll need to discuss your wishes with your GP and the hospice team involved with your care.

Hospices are very different from hospitals. They are quieter and provide care to suit each person’s situation. Visiting is usually less restricted than in a hospital. They offer a wide range of services for patients and their families. These include:

  • counselling
  • spiritual care
  • complementary therapies
  • bereavement support.

Many hospices have specialist palliative care nurses (nurses who are experts in symptom control and emotional support). They also have staff nurses or healthcare assistants who can visit and help care for people at home. Some have day centres for people living at home.

Accommodation and care in a hospice is always free of charge. Sometimes there’s a waiting list but urgent admissions can usually be organised within a couple of days.

You can find out more about your local hospice from your GP, district nurse or palliative care nurse. Hospice UK also has useful information about hospices and where they are located across the UK. If you’re not sure about the idea of hospice care, you can ask to visit the hospice before making a decision. The staff will be able to show you around and chat through any questions or concerns you have.

An introduction to hospices

Staff and volunteers at a hospice describe what the hospice is like and what support and activities are available.

About our cancer information videos

An introduction to hospices

Staff and volunteers at a hospice describe what the hospice is like and what support and activities are available.

About our cancer information videos

The people were very kind. I was absolutely amazed at the organisation. The number of staff, the number of patients, all with different ailments, and everything worked like clockwork. I was very impressed.

Jai


Care in residential homes or care homes with nursing

If you’re likely to need care for several months, a residential care home or care home with nursing may be more appropriate than a hospice. They usually offer short‑stay or long-stay care.

You may still be able to go to the hospice for day care, or a specialist nurse from a hospice may be able to visit you in the nursing home.

Your GP or healthcare team can explain the different types of care homes that are available.

Care homes may be:

  • privately owned
  • run by a charity
  • run by the local council.

A fee is charged for care in private care homes, although you can sometimes get help in paying for this if you have little or no savings.

You may be eligible for the NHS to fully fund your care in a care home with nursing. For example, if you’re reaching the end stages of your illness or if you have a complex medical condition that means you need a lot of care and support.

A ward nurse, district nurse, hospice nurse or social worker can tell you more about fully funded care.

You can find more information about fully funded care on the Marie Curie website.

If you live in Northern Ireland, funding for care homes is means-tested.

You can get lists of local registered care homes and details of registered care homes with nursing from your local social services department and your area health authority. You can also search for a care home by visiting carehome.co.uk


Hospitals

If you’ve been in and out of hospital over the last few months, you may want to go back to your usual hospital ward when you need full-time nursing care. This may be possible, although it may be easier to organise if you’ve been in a small local hospital (for example, a cottage hospital) rather than in a busy district general or teaching hospital.

Although many people die in hospital, it may not be the most peaceful place to be if the ward is busy. Often you’ll need to fit into the ward routine, rather than being looked after in the way that you’d like.

Hospitals have palliative care teams that include specialist nurses and doctors. A specialist nurse or doctor from this team may be able to see you while you’re in hospital. They can help manage your symptoms and can offer you and your family emotional support.


Information for relatives and friends

You may find it difficult to look after someone at home for a variety of reasons. As time goes on, you may feel that the person you are caring for would be better looked after by healthcare professionals in a hospice or care home. This may be because their situation has changed and you don’t have the emotional strength, or the nursing or medical skills to look after them.

Talk to the district nurse or GP if you feel you need more help to care for the person at home. They may be able to provide the extra support you need, or they can advise you on the best place for your relative to be cared for.

It’s important to not feel guilty if the person you are caring for needs to be moved from home at some point near the end of their life. You shouldn’t see this as a failure. Instead, you should see it as you wanting to make sure that they get the best possible care.

It’s also important to look after yourself. Try and make some time for yourself, eat well and get some exercise. Let your GP know that you’re caring for someone and tell them if you have any concerns about your own health.

We have more information about caring for someone with advanced cancer, which you may find useful.


Working together to create information for you

We worked with Marie Curie Cancer Care to write our End of life information.

Thank you to all of the people affected by cancer who reviewed what you're reading and have helped our information to develop.

You could help us too when you join our Cancer Voices Network.

Back to Dealing with the news

Coping with the news

Hearing that you may be reaching the end of your life can be very difficult, but there are people who can support you.

Sorting things out

When people are nearing the end of their life, many find they have things they want to sort out.

Financial help

You may be worrying about your finances at a time when you least need it. Financial help is available.