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End of life care

End of life care can support you if you are approaching death. It helps you to live as well as possible until you die and to die with dignity. It also includes support for your family or carers.

You can receive end of life care at home, in a care home, at a hospice, or at a hospital. It should begin when you need it and may last a few days, or for months or years.

NHS Choices has a guide to end of life care.

Marie Curie offers expert care, guidance and support to people living with any terminal illness and their families. 

Dying Matters has a directory of services for people in the last years of life, their families, carers and friends.

Hospice UK is the national voice of hospice care in the UK, working with member organisations to support their work and promote the delivery of high quality care. They have a web-based postcode hospice finder.

Macmillan Cancer Support provide information, advice and support for people with cancer, as well as their families and carers.

Planning ahead (advance care planning and Advance Decisions)

You may have specific wishes about your future care or medical treatment. Your condition might mean that you will not always be able to make your own decisions, so it's a good idea to talk about what you want with your family, carer and doctor. This is called advance care planning.

Anyone can plan for their future care, whether they are approaching the end of life or not. Advance care planning can let people know your wishes and feelings while you're still able to. It does not have to be in writing unless you're making an Advance Decision to refuse treatment. However, you may find that writing your wishes down makes it easier for people to understand and stick to them. You can include things such as:

  • where you would like to be looked after, such as at home, in hospital, in a hospice, or in a nursing home
  • who you would like to look after you at the end of your life and where you would like to be
  • your views on any particular treatments or types of care
  • any religious or spiritual beliefs you would like to be taken into account.

Marie Curie has information about planning ahead and things you should think about, which includes talking about your wishes for how you are cared for in the final months of your life.

My Decisions is a free and simple website where you can create an Advance Decision document to print, sign, witness and share.


Hospices provide care for people from the point at which their illness is diagnosed as terminal, to the end of their life. Hospice care can provide medical, emotional, social, practical, psychological and spiritual support. They also support your family and friends.

The NHS has information on hospices.

There are four hospices in Dorset:


Coping with loss

Everyone experiences grief differently and people may feel one or more of the following symptoms after a loss:

  • shock
  • sadness
  • guilt
  • anger
  • fear
  • physical symptoms

It's completely normal to feel any of these things in the first stages of grief.

NHS Choices and Cruse Bereavement Care have helpful advice on bereavement and how to cope.

Getting support

The most important thing to help you heal is having support from other people. This can be family, friends, colleagues, support groups, or counsellors. We have information on organisations that can help in our service provider directory.

We have a Community Directory with Bereavement Services that can support you and your family.

Supporting someone else

If you are supporting someone who has lost a loved one, you may need advice on how best to help them. While you can't take away the pain of loss, you can provide much needed comfort and support. Often just being there to listen is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Here are some useful suggestions of things you can do and things to avoid:


  • be there for the person who is grieving
  • listen to them
  • encourage them to talk
  • let them know it's okay to show their feelings, rather than putting on a front
  • offer practical help, such as shopping, cleaning, or helping with funeral arrangements


  • tell somebody how they 'should' be feeling, everybody grieves differently
  • avoid someone who has been bereaved
  • tell someone it's time to move on, there is no time limit for grieving and it varies from person to person
  • be alarmed if the person does not want to talk or gets angry or upset

Support for children

Winston’s Wish is a national charity aimed at supporting bereaved young people and their families.

Mosaic provides help and advice for bereaved children, young people and their families.

Child Bereavement UK is a national organisation providing help to children and young people (up to age 25), parents, and families.

Grieving and isolation

Grief is a natural response to loss and it is the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love dies. There is no right or wrong way in which to grieve. It is a highly personal issue that can affect people in many different ways.

The COVID-19 pandemic does, however, raise some unique issues that are different from a typical bereavement:

  • being bereaved can be an extremely lonely time and talking with those we rely on and trust most is one of the most helpful ways to cope. Grief at this time is therefore further impacted by the current health context and self-isolation, shielding and social distancing
  • funeral arrangements are different so your experiences of being able to say goodbye have changed
  • there is likely to be increased anxiety if the person has died of COVID-19 about the potential for you and other family members to contract the virus due to its infectious nature
  • the pandemic is widespread in the news and media so this constant stream of new and distressing information may mean you find yourself distracted from dealing with your grief.

Remember losing a loved person is part of life. Death and therefore bereavement is a normal human experience and whilst it is a difficult experience, the vast majority of people will cope with it without the need for specialist intervention. Understanding the grieving process and what to expect is very powerful and will help you and others to restore feelings of safety and security.

Talking to other people can help the process especially being able to talk with those people you rely on and trust.

National Bereavement Partnership COVID-19 Hub has been set up to provide information, advice and support for those individuals struggling on a difficult and emotional journey in these unprecedented times.

What to do when someone dies

It’s normal to be unsure of what to do when someone dies and to feel sad, angry, or lonely. There are many organisations that can advise you how to organise a funeral, cope when someone has passed away and how to register a death. There are also bereavement support groups in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to support you with your loss.

You should register a death within 5 days unless the coroner has requested a post-mortem or an inquest.

Funeral Information

Age UK and GOV.UK have information on planning and arranging a funeral.