How to Care for a Dying Person

Three Methods:Having the Right AttitudeInteracting with the Dying PersonCaring for the Dying Person Physically

Caring for a dying person can be upsetting if you are very close to him or her. Remember, though, that you are helping the dying person live the last of their days happily or at least more comfortably. Caring for a dying person can be one of the most meaningful and positive things you will ever do.

Method 1
Having the Right Attitude

  1. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 1
    Respect their wishes even if you don't agree with them. Whether they want painful care that seems almost hopeless or they don’t, or whatever else they are requesting, you should respect the wishes of the dying in almost all cases. Allow them some sense of control in their last days.
    • If there is nothing medically to be done, or they don’t want a very painful regimen with limited chances of success, respect their desires. If a certain medicine has an annoying side effect, it´s okay if you want to tell them why it´s important for you, as a loved one, that they take the medicine. Don´t tell them they have to take it, though, and ultimately respect that it's their call.
    • If the dying person doesn't want visitors, don't visit and don't make arrangements for other visitors. Allow them to be alone if that's what they want. You can try to lift their spirits up, but there will probably be times they need to feel sad or even sorry for themselves. Be kind and patient at such times.
  2. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 2
    Give them things to look forward to – on a daily basis. Make sure the conversation isn’t always about death and dying. Rather than focusing on their lack of a future, make the present as good as possible. Give them something to enjoy every day.
    • Keep their hopes focused on immediate gratifications that make "living as long as possible" motivating. Give them a few daily. Talk about nice things that you can do together the next day, even if it's just a quiet visit or maybe reading another chapter in a book together.
    • If he or she does not have many food restrictions, talk about something nice you can have for breakfast of lunch; if there are food restrictions, mention the Sunday comic strips from the newspaper or something like that. If you don´t live together, set a date for your next visit, and make sure that date is not too far away.
  3. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 3
    Do more of what the dying person enjoys, not what you enjoy. If he or she likes music you hate, let them listen to it. If he or she loves a certain book or poem, read it to them.
    • Finish the dying person's bucket list. If he/she has a bucket list or wish list, help them get their wishes to come true. You don't want a dying person to die with regrets.
    • Don't be sad or depressed. If you are sad, he or she will be sad, and when the person dies, he or she will want you to live happily. It's okay to be a little sad, but a lot of sadness will not help you at all. And it doesn't help them. Keep their final days filled with joy as much as possible.
    • Enjoy most of your time together. Caring for someone can be difficult. If you're not leaving at least a daily moment for both of you to enjoy, resentment builds up. Have a daily moment that reminds you why you are caring for this person. Never do it "because I have to, and nobody else will."
    • If the dying person is too sick, weak or upset to do anything with you, avoid putting additional pressure on the person. This will likely exacerbate his or her symptoms.
  4. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 4
    Stay positive, and above all, avoid arguing with the person. Dying people are sometimes crabby or even cruel, since they may be responding in fear of the dying process or just physical pain. Don’t take the bait. Even when you feel frustrated by the dying person's actions, avoid getting into arguments that you will regret to remember someday.
    • Ensure that you remain strong and positive in front of them despite their physical and mental state. This ensures they remain calm and content without having the emotional upset of worrying and upsetting you.
    • Don't fight them, even if they are wrong. If they are asking you to do something that can't be done, say yes, try, and fail. They need to feel like they can still suggest, and control a few things. Agree for anything that is not a life or death situation. If it is life or death, maybe agree, and then say you just couldn't, and you´re sorry. Arguing will just be tiresome for you.

Method 2
Interacting with the Dying Person

  1. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 5
    Listen more than you talk. If he or she can speak, listen. It could be comforting to remember and chat about good memories, happy times, or to look at old pictures together.
    • It's nice to have good talks; elderly people, for example, love sharing stories and experiences. You could ask them questions like "What are your best childhood memories?" or "What are some of the most important lessons you feel you have learned over the course of your life?"
    • If you want to know if they are in pain, ask. Don't guess. If they can communicate, listen to what they say about their care needs.[1]
    • See what they are feeling, what they want, what they think is best for them, what they want to still do, and what they feel needs to be said. Don't tell them what you think they need. Listen to what they say they need. If they bring up spirituality, encourage the conversation on their own terms.[2]
  2. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 6
    Keep them as comfortable as possible in all ways. Make sure they have the correct supplies if they're in any pain (such as morphine drips and regular medication). You can ask a doctor if they feel they can't talk to one themselves.
    • You can also do basic things such as keeping them warm and bringing them anything they need for support, such as extra pillows. Show them love. Paste drawings or cards nearby, and invite his or her loved ones to make new ones.
    • Make sure you communicate with them about what they need to be comfortable - their needs are the most important thing at this time. This could be bringing certain foods and drinks they want, fluffing their pillows, or something else. People who are dying may prefer a quiet room.[3]
    • Take some time to read about the final stages of life. This will help you understand what they are going through physically and how to respond to different situations.
  3. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 7
    Let them be independent in some tasks if that's what they want. It may be a struggle for them, but it will make them feel better about themselves if they can at least do some simple things on their own.
    • Sometimes they can be embarrassed about becoming weak and incapable of doing simple things like sitting up, so they might not want someone watching them all the time.
    • You must remember that their mental health is very important at this stage. If they're the leader of the family, reassure them that everything will be in order when they've passed.
    • The things they do on their own could be small gestures (such as picking up the TV remote or brushing their teeth).
  4. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 8
    Look after yourself too. Don't feel as if you must have all the responsibility as other people can usually be there to give you a hand. It is extremely hard to care for a dying person, and it will be emotionally draining for you, but it will mean the world to them that you are helping and that you care.[4]
    • Understand you can learn a lot from dying people. To know that there will be a point where you will no longer be here too should cause you to reflect. It should allow you to place things in perspective, find out what really matters, and give yourself the motivation to make changes.
    • Understand you may need a break from care giving sometimes. That's okay. Don't be hard on yourself. You need to stay emotionally replenished so you can care for them best. There are many support groups for people caring for the dying. Ask at your local hospital for one of them. It can be very helpful to speak to people who understand what you're dealing with; vent to those people, not the dying person.

Method 3
Caring for the Dying Person Physically

  1. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 9
    Don’t forget the power of human touch. By staying with the dying person in their final days or hours, you can comfort them with your words or by holding their hand.[5]
    • Some adult children will snuggle in bed with their dying parent and this close contact may be comforting to a dying mother or father.
    • The simple act of physical contact—holding hands, a touch, or a gentle massage—can make a person feel connected to those he or she loves. It can be very soothing. Warm your hands by rubbing them together or running them under warm water.
    • As death scares many people, some will tend to avoid the dying person. However, it's these very moments that can be turning points for the better in the lives of people. So, make sure there is much support around this dying person, and don't be scared to keep them company with others until they do die. Knowing that people were there for them will comfort them.
  2. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 10
    Understand you may need to accept help. This will depend on the situation and stage. Stay organized, as caring for a dying person can be a lot of work. Keep a planner for doctor´s appointments, medicine calendars, and keep it visible. Have a board.
    • Accept help, but don’t let others control the situation. We all have loved ones who are always there to help, as long as it´s on their terms, and with their conditions. You don´t need this. Say thank you, but make sure they don´t add more pressure than they take off.
    • Educate yourself on their symptoms, the best medically suggested response to them, and on the dying process in general. Help them educate themselves too, if that's what they want.[6]
    • If you are not the person responsible for the care, and want to offer help, offer help, not control. Help in their terms, not yours. The best way to help, is by accepting the terms the one responsible establishes.
  3. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 11
    Keep them clean and hygienic at all times. We all know how nice it is to have just had a bath or a shower. If the person is too large for one person to manage, then a close friend or nurse may be helpful to give a bed bath.
    • Consider hospice care or a nurse[7]. If you can afford it, hire a nurse for tasks that may be embarrassing for your dying loved one. If you can´t afford it, never do it angry.
    • Don’t leave a dying person alone for long periods of time. And make sure there is someone close to them in the room, even if this is done in shifts. You want them to feel the presence of family and loved ones, not just caregivers they aren’t that connected to.
    • Put them in a wheelchair if they are always in bed. That way they can have some fresh air, and see a new face. Ask them how they feel in case they do not want to stay outside any longer. By these loving gestures, they still feel like they are a part of the world and that you care.
  4. Image titled Care for a Dying Person Step 12
    Treat them as living, not dying, people. Give them their dignity. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing to learn from a dying person, or that the dying process is just all pain and horrible. While it can be traumatic, witnessing death should change you.
    • When caring for a dying person, remember that they are still there. Do not treat them as if they are already dead, or are not there. For example, it can be very hurtful for the dying person if you talk about them or their condition with someone else, while they are in your presence.
    • Don't bring up the dying thing unless they do. Just hold their hand and be there for their last breaths. Stay positive and don't show sadness in front of them. Talk to them as if they are cognizant of what's going on around them. They might be or they might not be, but don't assume that they don't hear what you are saying. Mend any fences with them that you need to. Even if you think they don't respond to you, they know what you've said.


  • Tell them anything and everything you ever wanted to tell them. Ask them anything you ever wanted to know from them. You will have no regrets.
  • Stay with them as much as you are able and as much as they want you to.
  • Help them with maintaining hygiene and cleanliness.


  • Remain as calm as possible. They do not want to see you freak out. That will put more stress on them.

Article Info

Categories: Death Funerals and Bereavement