Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home

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When death is approaching

If you are caring for a loved one who has advanced cancer, you may be there as they near death and even when they die. Even as you go through the pain of losing someone close to you, there are many things you can do to make the person more comfortable.

People often use this time to gather the family to say goodbye to their loved one. They may take turns with the patient, holding hands, talking to the patient, or just sitting quietly. It can also be a time to perform any religious rituals and other activities the patient wants before death. It’s a chance for many families and friends to express their love and appreciation for the patient and for each other.

It’s important to have a plan for what to do after death, so that people will know what to do during this very emotional time. If the patient is in hospice, the hospice nurse and social worker will help you. If the patient is not in hospice, talk with your cancer team about it so that you will know what to do at the time of death.

Knowing more about what to expect may help ease some of the anxiety around events that might otherwise be alarming. For more information on hospice or what to expect when death is approaching, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 and ask for Hospice Care and Nearing the End of Life. You can also visit for more information.

Last Medical Review: 06/08/2015
Last Revised: 05/17/2016