Providing information and care to families 

People vary in what they know, understand and believe about death and dying. Information can help families and carers prepare as someone approaches the last few weeks and days of life.

Key points

  • In order to provide good care at home, family and carers need support, which may include:
    • Information about the patient’s medical condition, what to expect and how to help with symptoms
    • Practical information and skills for looking after a person who is deteriorating
    • Aids and equipment to help nurse the person at home
    • Encouragement to take breaks and care for their own health and wellbeing, which may include some kind of planned respite
    • A crisis plan and contact information for after hours advice
    • Reassurance that they are doing a good job, and help with decision making if they are unable to continue their caregiving role.
  • Talk with the family about the implications of calling an ambulance, and consider strategies to avoid unwanted and inappropriate treatment, or transfer of a dying person to an emergency department.
    • A letter or an ambulance plan confirming the palliative goals of care should be provided
    • The ambulance plan may also be used to authorise treatment for a predictable crisis (eg, pain, bleeding, dyspnoea).
  • Consider alerting your palliative care service of the possible need for an inpatient palliative care bed as a back-up. If admission is needed, this may avoid the need to go through an emergency department. 

Last updated 24 August 2021