How-to Prepare for a Loved One’s End of Life

  • Prepare an Organ Donor Form
    This form provides legal proof that your loved one wishes to donate organs or tissue after their death.
  • Decide on Funeral Options
    Consider service option preferences.

We encourage you and your loved one to discuss their thoughts, concerns and choices with family, healthcare providers and other trusted advisors. Surviving loved ones should know that a plan exists and where important documents are stored. Please visit: for more information and expert resources on managing End of Life documents and tasks.

Respect Your Loved One’s Choices

Few things are more personal than how a person chooses to experience their End of Life. It’s important to remember that everyone deserves a peaceful, comfortable End of Life experience, even if those choices differ from our own.

Do your best to respect your loved one’s care preferences and their physical and emotional needs. If your loved one needs help choosing their best care option, offer to talk with their healthcare team or a social worker. You may ask for a referral to palliative or hospice care specialists. End of Life care options include the following:

  • Home care
    Your loved one may choose to pass away at home or in the home of a family member. You can assume or support the role of caregiver, hire home care services or engage hospice care services.
  • Inpatient care
    Your loved one may opt for 24-hour care at a nursing home, hospital or dedicated inpatient facility.
  • Hospice care
    Hospice provides services, support and resources for people at End of Life, typically with six months or less of expected life remaining. Hospice includes spiritual support and bereavement services for family.
  • Palliative care
    Palliative care is specialized medical care that provides patients with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress of any illness.

How-to Prepare for a Loved One’s End of Life

Help Your Loved One Gain Comfort and Peace

As your loved one nears End of Life, they and those important to them can find comfort and peace in how they are able to live their remaining life. Finding meaning through faith, spirituality and important relationships helps ensure peace.

Embracing Spirituality

If faith is important to your loved one, encourage them to express it in ways that feel appropriate to them. They may find comfort and hope in reading spiritual texts, attending religious services or praying. Encourage the companionship of people who understand and support their religious beliefs.

Saying Goodbye

Knowing End of Life is imminent offers your loved one a unique privilege: expressing important final words to those they love. Encourage them to share their feelings including thanks or forgiveness, and to give others a chance to say goodbye. This may help strengthen family bonds. It may also inspire conversation about important previously unstated thoughts, which may be meaningful for all.

Creating a Legacy

Your loved one may find it comforting to create a lasting legacy, such as a recording about his or her life or writing letters to loved ones, especially about important potential future events, like a wedding or the birth of a child. Sharing special family heirlooms or keepsakes is a powerful way to express love and farewell to loved ones.

Get Support for Yourself and Loved Ones

When someone you love and care for is facing End of Life, you will need support to help you manage the loss you are experiencing. It’s important to find someone who will listen without judgment as you talk about your feelings and mourn your loss. Take good care of yourself and your family. Eat nutritious meals. Get as much rest and exercise as you can. Try to spend time doing things that are calming and soothing to your soul.

How-to Prepare for a Loved One’s End of Life

Take a few minutes to answer these questions.
  1. What resources can help you learn more about your loved one’s condition?
  2. What decisions does your loved one need support with as they near End of Life?
  3. What hospice programs do your physicians, friends or caregivers recommend?
  4. Which family, friends or neighbors can offer you or your loved one the most support during this challenging time?
What to Do When End of Life is Near

Just as every life is unique, so is each person’s End of Life. End of Life may happen suddenly or slowly. You may need to ask a healthcare provider if your loved one’s End of Life is approaching. Remember, the provider can only give you an estimate of when that time may occur. Consider doing the following when your loved one’s End of Life is very near:

  • Gather close support
  • Offer reassurance and emotional support
Gather Close Support

When End of Life is near, help your loved one gather those who are closest. Remember to reach out for support for yourself and your own family too. Consider gathering these people when a loved one’s End of Life is imminent:

  • Family, friends, neighbors
  • Healthcare proxy or Will executor
  • Hospice or palliative care providers
  • Religious or spiritual advisors
  • Therapists, counselors or psychologists
Offer Reassurance and Emotional Support

Your loved one’s physical strength and cognitive functions may diminish, yet their capacity to feel frightened or at peace, loved or lonely, and sad or secure may remain.

How-to Prepare for a Loved One’s End of Life

They may no longer recognize you, but may still draw comfort from your companionship, touch or the sound of your voice.

Each person’s emotional needs differ in the final stages of life, although some emotions are common to those nearing End of Life. Many worry about loss of control and dignity as their physical abilities decline. It is also common for patients to fear being a burden to their loved ones yet at the same time they fear being alone. Reassuring your loved one that it is okay to pass away may help both of you through this emotionally challenging process.

Late-stage caregivers or loved ones can offer emotional comfort in the following ways:

  • Provide company
    Talk to your loved one, read to them or simply sit and hold their hand
  • Promote a calm environment
    Create a soothing atmosphere; communicating through sensory experiences such as touch or singing
  • Bring small pets
    Contact with pets or therapy animals may bring comfort and pleasure, and ease transitions
  • Offer familiar remembrances
    Surrounding your loved one with pictures and mementos, reading treasured books and playing favorite music promotes dignity and comfort
  • Remain attentive
    Avoid burdening your loved one with your feelings of fear, sadness and loss; discuss your feelings privately with an appropriate listener instead
  • Listen without interruption
    Let your loved one express their fears about death without disruption; communicating fears may help them accept the reality of their End of Life
  • Allow them to reminisce
    Encourage them to recall positive life stories to help promote dignity and comfort
  • Provide information
    Include them in discussions that concern them or their care
  • Honor their wishes
    Reassure your loved one that you will honor their wishes, including legal or personal requests