End of life care

You may be finding out about end of life care for yourself, or because someone close to you has advanced cancer. 

The information on this page will help you to find out more about end of life care,  and who provides it.

End of life care explained

If you or a loved one have a cancer that is no longer curable, there may be times when you think about end of life issues. This is natural - and it's useful to read about what care and support is available, even if you don’t need the information right now.

If you have been told by your doctor or health care team that you have a limited time to live (and that could be a year, months or weeks), then you and your family may be wondering what happens next.

When we talk about end of life care, this means care and support during the end stages of the illness. It includes the practical aspects of care, good symptom control, psychological support and financial advice. (End of life care is important part of palliative care).

It can begin in the years, months and weeks before life’s end, and continues for as long as it is needed.  The aim is to help you live as well as possible for as long as possible, and to die with dignity.

Things to think about

This is the time when you may wish to get your financial affairs in order, make a will, and think about who might manage your affairs if you became too ill to make decisions yourself.  You may wish to speak with a benefits or financial advisor - and have discussions with your family.

You may be thinking about who will provide your care, where that might be, and what your wishes are. End of life care can be at home, in hospital, care homes and/or hospices. You may have a preference, and you can make your wishes known to those around you providing your care.

Open conversations with your family about what you’d like to happen afterwards, including funeral plans, can be helpful and ease their concerns at a stressful time.

Who provides end of life care?

If your cancer is advancing, and you’re needing more help, you will be supported by your GP, district nurse, social worker, hospital doctors, health care teams and palliative care specialists as needed.

If you’re at home, or a care home,  then your GP usually leads your care. They work closely with local services, aiming to provide you with a high standard of care.  If you’re being cared for at home, they’ll be supporting you and those caring for you.

You may recognise that you or your loved one need help, and it is important to let your doctor or nurse know, if things feel difficult. Getting the help and support you need, early on, is better than trying to manage on your own. They can also guide you to the specific services you may require, such as home carers, counselling, etc. 

You may have already made contact with the palliative care services locally, as they are often accessed early on in a cancer diagnosis. Most people think it only applies to people who are nearing end of life. Palliative care is often introduced earlier on for symptom control, or when a cancer cannot be cured, but can still be treated.

Some of your care may take place in hospital or a hospice. They will have staff trained in end of life care, and they can call on specialist palliative care colleagues to ensure you get the best possible treatment and support. 

Emotional support

Facing issues around end of life can be stressful and emotional, and both you and your family may need to talk through how things are feeling. This might be with friends, or trusted members of your local community. Specialist psychological support may be accessed via your GP, or hospital/hospice.

You could drop into your local Maggie’s Centre - we will give you space to talk, and be with others who understand your situation.

You can ask questions from experienced cancer support specialists and take part in groups, courses and workshops. In addition,  our benefits advisors can help with any financial concerns.

What now?

Get in touch with your GP, if you’re worried about your future end of life care, or need help and advice about how to manage your care at home.

Browse through the links and blogs on this page for further information.

Visit your local Maggie’s centre to talk with our Cancer Support Specialists as well as others in similar situations.

Last review: Dec 2021 | Next review: Sep 2023

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