Caring for someone in the last few weeks of life

During the last few weeks of life, your relative or friend may have emotional and physical changes. Even though this is normal, it can be hard to cope with. Being prepared for what may happen can make the situation a little easier.

Information for relatives and friends

Caring can be physically and emotionally hard work. If you’ve been looking after your partner, relative or friend for some time, you may start to feel drained. It’s also common to have a lot of intense emotions, including anger or resentment, towards the person you’re looking after. If you feel like this, it’s important to tell your GP or one of the nurses so they can help you cope.

You may find that you have very little time for yourself. This can be frustrating and may make you feel trapped or claustrophobic.

It’s important to look after yourself too. So think about making arrangements for someone to come in regularly so you can have some time to yourself, even if it’s only for a few hours a week. If there isn’t a relative or friend who can help, you can contact Carers Trust or Carers UK Having some support and help can allow you to regain your previous role as a partner, friend, son or daughter.

When you get time off from caring, try to relax. It’s tempting to spend the break clearing up the house or doing the washing, but doing something you enjoy can help to revive your energy. You can also spend time just sitting with and talking to the person you’re caring for. This can be very rewarding.

It might seem like your relative or friend is losing interest in you and the things that are going on around them. This may be upsetting for you. You may already be missing the way your relationship used to be and all the things you used to do together. This is quite natural and understandable.

It may feel as though they are giving up. But remember, it’s often a natural part of dying. They may seem angry or very anxious and it’s important to listen to what they’re saying and acknowledge their feelings.

Although you may not feel as though you’re doing much, just being there and listening can be more helpful than you think.

You may find it helpful to read Marie Curie’s booklet What to expect at the end of someone’s life.

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 Understanding what will happen

The last few weeks of life

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