Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Caring for adults
Caring for adults

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5 Approaching death

One of the aims of end-of-life care is that the person has a good death. If possible, what constitutes a good death is decided by the person who is dying. You will now follow the case study about Frank and Grace. This case study has been divided into separate activities so that you can follow them as they prepare for Frank’s death. In the first part you learn more about difficult conversations.

Activity 5

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Part 1

Read an excerpt that has been adapted from Finding the Words from the National End of Life Care Programme (Department of Health, 2011). It is about the worries that people and carers might have at the end of their life.

Key worries that people and carers might have at the end of life

  • Relationships

    Am I still needed as a partner/parent/son/daughter or friend?

  • Existential/spiritual

    Why me?

    Why now?

    What have I done to deserve this?

  • Physical/symptoms

    Will I be in pain or experience any other physical symptoms such as incontinence, weight loss?

    Will I lose control of my bodily functions?

  • Psychological

    Will it change how people view me?

    Will I be an outcast/avoided?

    Should I tell people? How?

    Will I lose control of my mind?

    Do I really believe I am going to die?

  • Treatment

    Will it cause any unpleasant side effects?

    Will it prolong my life?

    Will I be able to cope?

  • Practical

    What financial arrangements do I need?

    Who will look after the children/pets/parents/relatives?

  • Social/support

    Who will look after me?

    What extra help is there?

  • Dying

    How long?

    How ill will I become?

    What will it be like?

(Source: Department of Health, 2011)

Part 2

Now read the case study about Frank and Grace and answer the questions that follow.

Case study: Frank and Grace Taylor

Described image
Figure 2 Frank and Grace embrace

Frank (64) and Grace Taylor (62) are very close. They have been married for over forty years. Frank is a retired civil engineer who has been receiving palliative care for bowel cancer for over a year. He is now receiving end-of-life care. He has secondary tumours throughout his body. There is little record of his health conditions prior to his diagnosis as he rarely visited his GP. He liked meat-based meals and drank spirits moderately at the weekend. Grace has been treated for depression recently.

Over the last month Frank has gradually grown weaker. Grace is adamant that she wants to be fully involved in his care. There has been much in-depth discussion of his approaching death. The time for a ‘difficult conversation’ has come to find out from Frank and Grace what is important to them towards the end of life.

For Frank an advanced care plan aimed to keep him at home in line with his and Grace’s wishes. He was helped with personal care by carers from a local agency, and a community/home nurse visited daily to tend to the more technical elements of his care including medicines management.

  1. What sorts of thing would you want to discuss with someone facing the end of their life?
  2. How would you approach Frank and Grace about these matters?
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


There are some questions that are appropriate for the person whose life is ending and other questions that should be asked of their family or friends. Asking questions of other people might provide you with information that would enable you to give good-quality person-centred care; that is, care that the person near death deems to be good quality. Sometimes it might be difficult for people or their relatives to tell you what matters to them. Being sensitive, genuine and compassionate are vital at such times.