Module overview


I told her I supported her. I was her primary caregiver, and it was difficult to watch her go through this.

The death of a family member may be one of the most significant experiences of your life. Many of us, however, will never have been with someone who is dying, and we really don’t know what to expect. As a caregiver of someone who is terminally ill, particularly if they have chosen to die at home, you will probably want to know the signs that indicate death is near. It is good for you to remember that, at this stage, the focus of your care should be on maintaining comfort.

No one, even healthcare practitioners, can accurately predict when a death will take place. Typically, however, over the last months of life, there will be increasingly rapid changes in three areas – eating, sleeping, and energy level. If changes are daily, there are probably only days remaining.

This will likely be a very difficult time for you, for the person who is ill, and for your family. This module will explore some of the issues you will likely encounter and offer some suggestions for coping with changes, including:

  • Some practical considerations if your family is thinking about a home death.
  • Some of the mixed emotions families experience with a planned home death, including if you (or other family members) change your mind later on.
  • Exploring what you can do to help prepare yourself as death nears, including important documents, medication changes, loss of consciousness, and the role of honouring rituals at this time.
  • Discussing some of the concerns many caregivers have for the person who is ill as death approaches, including pain the person may experience and the difficult choices they may have to make.
  • Considerations for being at the bedside of the person who is dying such as if they can hear you when unconscious, listening to the person, and providing reassurance.
  • How to prepare children and youth for the death of the person who is ill, including some basic suggestions for the conversation, encouraging questions, and respecting how the young person would like to be notified of the death.
  • Some physical signs of when death is near as well as the final physical changes that happen.