What to consider
Your choice of where to live and be looked after will probably depend on a number of things, such as:
- whether you have an illness that needs help from medical staff or care workers to manage, and how much help you need
- what support you’d have if you stayed in your own home – for example, from friends, family or care workers
- what’s available in your area – for example, whether there are spaces in hospice services or care homes
- where you are currently living.
Talk to your GP and people you trust about your preferences and what might be possible. Ask your GP to record your wishes, or write an advance statement, so that professionals involved in your care are aware of what you would want.
Many people wish to spend the end of their life in their own home. The familiar surroundings can provide comfort and help you to feel in control.
You may be able to get support to stay in your own home. You can:
- get extra help at home – for example, if you need more care or support than family and friends are willing or able to give
- speak to your GP about what’s available in your area – for example, if you need visiting palliative (end of life) care nurses or district nurses
- ask your local council for a free care needs assessment, if you need help with personal care
- make adaptations to your home that could help you to stay there.
Some people may choose to remain at home, but as their illness progresses, they find that this isn’t possible and they’d rather be supported in a hospice, hospital or care home.
Up until three years ago, my mother could go up and down stairs at my home and the realisation that she couldn’t do this anymore was a real watershed moment. We brought a bed from upstairs and made a room for her downstairs. It isn’t ideal though, as we only have a small downstairs cloakroom, so we’re now looking at adapting downstairs to get a small en suite wet room for her.
In a hospice
Hospice care is for people living with terminal or life-limiting illnesses. Hospices focus on caring for people as individuals. They look after their emotional needs and wellbeing, as well as their medical needs.
Hospices provide a range of services, including:
- psychological and spiritual support
- practical advice
- pain management.
If you move into a hospice, this will usually be in the last two weeks of your life. Hospice care can also sometimes be provided to people in their own homes or in a care home.
Hospice care is always free. Ask your GP or a local hospice for information, or visit Hospice UK.
I think the whole environment of the hospice movement is about openness, about talking about it, and recognising and coming to terms with it.
In a care home
If you’re already living in a care home, you may want to spend the end of your life in a familiar place. You might also be able to move to a care home for a short period before you die. But bear in mind that care homes may have waiting lists and can be expensive.
The end-of-life care offered by care homes varies. Some will have their own end-of-life teams and others may use visiting services, for example from a hospice.
Ask your local council to carry out a free care needs assessment before you move into a care home. You may be entitled to help with funding from your local council or the NHS. You can search for care homes in your area through the Care Quality Commission.
Many people will spend the end of their life in hospital. It may seem less comforting than being in your own home, but some people are reassured that staff have the expertise to care for them, and relieve their pain and symptoms where possible. Some hospitals will have specialist end of life (palliative) care teams.
If you want to donate your organs, this is only possible if you die in hospital. Since 2020, you need to opt out if you don’t want to donate your organs. Find out more on the NHS organ donation website.
Read our guide Planning for the end of life