End-of-Life Care

Rights of a Person at the End of Life

A person at the end of life must at all times be treated with understanding, compassion, courtesy and fairness, with respect for their dignity, autonomy, wishes, needs and safety. They have the right to: 

  • Receive end-of-life care 
  • Refuse or withdraw consent to care
  • Be represented 
  • Express wishes for care 

See the document Rights of a person receiving end-of-life care - Act Respecting End-Of-Life Care.

Certain forms of palliative and end-of-life care can be administered under certain conditions:

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Providing Comfort and Care

Being present is a major part of supporting someone who is in end-of-life care. Here are things you can do to care for a dying loved one: 

  • Participate in care planning: 
  • Keep being present 
  • Speak calmly and naturally
  • Offer comfort and care
  • Create a peaceful and comfortable environment 
  • Assist with mouth care
  • Help with repositioning
  • Give medication to help relieve pain or symptoms, if necessary

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should oxygen be administered?

The use of oxygen at the end of life is somewhat uncommon as the body does not require as much and the lungs absorb it less. If the person is experiencing shortness of breath, certain medications, such as morphine, are more effective than oxygen. However, oxygen may be administered if it makes the patient more comfortable.

Should artificial hydration be administered?

Intravenous hydration causes a build-up of fluids in the tissues and lungs. It also increases respiratory secretions, which may cause discomfort. It does very little to nothing to extend the patient’s longevity. 

When a person in end-of-life care stops eating, do they die of starvation?

A person with an advanced illness does not experience hunger or thirst the way a healthy person does. People who stop eating die of their illness, not starvation.  Mouth care can help reduce dry mouth.

Is pain always part of dying?

Pain is not always part of dying. However, if pain is experienced near the end of life, there are many ways it can be addressed and alleviated.

Does morphine make death happen faster?

Given at the proper dose, morphine (and other opioids) is used to keep patients comfortable. It does not hasten death.

Preparing to Be a Caregiver

While caregiving can be rewarding, it can also be physically and emotionally draining. Taking care of yourself, knowing your limitations and being mindful of them is crucial.    

  • When possible, surround yourself with people who can lend a hand 
  • Talk to your loved one and know what their wishes are 

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Locations Where Services Are Offered

It is good to know that care and services can be provided in a range of locations:

  • At home
  • In long-term care facilities
  • In palliative care homes (hospice)
  • In hospitals

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Considerations for a Home Death

Key Requirements for a Home Death

  • The support of your network (family, friends...)
  • Loved ones who are willing and able to provide the required care
  • The ability to adapt the home environment
  • The ability to manage and react to the unexpected
  • Being comfortable with having a loved one pass away in one’s home (some situations will be intense and forever etched in your memory) 
  • The involvement of a home care team (nurses, health care aids, physicians, etc.)

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Difficult Choices

Ideally, the person who is near the end of life will have made their choices known to you before becoming unable to communicate. In some cases however, caregivers must make decisions on behalf of their loved one. The care team can advise you and help guide your decisions.

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When Death Occurs

If you’re in a hospital or a residential centre

  • Take all the time you need to say your final goodbyes. Notify the care team once you are ready, there is no hurry.

If you’re at home

  • There’s usually no need to call 911 or emergency services. There should be a pre-established plan in place of who to contact at the time of death. You can call the care team to notify them of the passing.
  • Don’t feel like you need to call the funeral home immediately after the death. There’s no rush. 
  • Be understanding of anyone who wants to kiss, caress or bathe the deceased person. These are normal ways of coping with a death.
  • Since physical changes may occur within a few hours of death, you can do the following: 
    • Make sure the person is lying on their back with their head slightly raised on a pillow
    • Close their eyes
  • To safely dispose of medication:
    • Return all medications to the pharmacy for proper disposal. 

What to do when someone dies

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Tools and Resources



♦ Notice to reader: The resources listed are provided for information purposes only to help bereaved and grieving individuals access community resources available to the public. The use of these services is at your discretion. The institution cannot be held responsible for services provided by the resources listed.

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