CanHOPE is a non-profit cancer counselling and support service provided by Parkway Cancer Centre, Singapore.


Caring for Your Loved One in His Last Days at Home

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Caring for your loved one who is dying at home is not an easy task.

Below are some tips to guide caregivers during this difficult time.

Mouth Care

Keep the mouth clean and moist.

  • Clean the mouth using moist swabs 2 to 3 times a day, or more frequently when necessary.
  • Avoid alcohol-containing mouthwash. A gentle mouthwash or simply water may be good enough.
  • If your loved one wears dentures, they should be removed for cleansing daily. If the dentures are loose, remove them to avoid choking.
  • Apply lip moisturiser to his lips
  • Offer sips of water if your loved one is able to swallow.

Hygiene and Skin Care

Help your loved one feel comfortable and prevent bedsores.

  • Sponge your loved one on the bed every day if he is too weak to go to the shower room. Inspect his body for bedsores, redness or other abnormal skin condition.
  • Change soiled diapers immediately and apply barrier cream to sacral area to minimise irritation from the soiled diaper.
  • If your loved one is bed-ridden, turn him every 2 to 3 hourly to avoid bedsore. A draw sheet placed underneath the patient can help you do so with greater ease.
  • Apply skin moisturiser for dry skin.
  • Consider using a pressure-relieving mattress for bed-ridden patients.


Your loved one does not require much nutrition or calories

  • Offer small amount of fluid (e.g. water, honey water, barley/rice water) by using a teaspoon if he is able to swallow. Avoid using a straw.
  • May offer ice cubes/ cold drinks/ ice cream/ pudding if he prefers and can tolerate it.
  • There is no need to insist on feeding. He does not require much nutrition at this stage, and the energy expenditure on eating and digesting may be too much for his body to handle.
  • Sit your loved one up at 45 degree or more and make sure he is awake before feeding.
  • Stop feeding if your loved one coughs.

Bowel Movement

  • Even if your loved one is eating little, it is good for him to move his bowel at least once every 3 days. Constipation may add to his discomfort.
  • Let the doctor or nurse know if he has constipation. In most cases, medication can be given to help bowel movement.

Pain and Other Symptoms

  • Consult your doctor or nurse for the above problems.
  • Administer medicines as instructed by the doctor or nurse, and monitor the response.


  • Keep the room well-ventilated, and the environment quiet and calm. Play soothing music in low volume if preferred.
  • Hold your loved one’s hand, give gentle strokes or massage, or talk softly and reassure him. Do not expect any responses if he is tired or drowsy.
  • Spiritual support from respective religious group can be helpful.

What To Do When My Loved One Passes Away at Home?

  • When your loved one has stopped breathing for 10 minutes, it is the indication that he has passed away.
  • Stay calm.
  • Note the time when he stops breathing.
  • Lie your loved one flat on his back, placing both hands on the abdomen.
  • Keep the room well ventilated by turning on the fan or air-conditioner.
  • Arrange for a doctor to certify the death at home and sign the Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD). The doctor will require your loved one’s identity card or passport for verification.*
  • Register the death at any Police Divisional Headquarters, Neighbourhood Police Centre, or the Registry of Births and Deaths, ICA Building.*
    • Prior to registration, the family should decide whether the body will be cremated or buried as this information is required when registering the death.
    • Registration of death will have to be done within 24 hours of the death.
    • You will need to bring along your identity card, your loved one’s identity card/passport and the CCOD.

* Above information is only applicable in Singapore. Rules and regulations on reporting and registration of death vary in different countries.