Providing practical support

Many people worry about how they’ll manage with the day-to-day tasks of looking after someone. These might include showering, toileting and getting the person safely in and out of bed. You may find providing personal care awkward or embarrassing, especially at first, but most carers say they get used to it. However, your family member or friend may prefer to receive personal care from somebody they don’t know well.

The palliative care team is there to support you as well and may be able to take over some of these tasks. This support can help reduce your stress and free you up to spend quality time with the person you’re caring for.

Listen to our podcasts on Cancer Affects the Carer Too and How to Help Someone with Cancer 

Ways to help

There are many things that family and friends can do to help support someone at the end of life, including:

  • Prepare meals − Preparing meals for someone who is sick can become complicated as their needs and illness change. Try cooking simple, small meals. You may have to mash food so it’s easier to swallow – the palliative care team will have a dietitian who can advise you on what is needed. As the disease progresses, the person may lose their appetite and not be able to eat or drink. At this time, it’s important not to force eating or drinking. If the person cannot drink, chips of ice can help to moisten the mouth.
  • Manage medicines − If you need to give medicines and feel overwhelmed, ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurses for suggestions. For tablets and capsules, a blister pack (e.g. Webster-pak) can set out all the doses that need to be taken throughout the week. Read tips for managing medicines
  • Help with bathing and washing − If the person you are caring for can’t move around easily, you may have to sponge bathe them or wash their hair over a basin.
  • Help with getting in and out of bed − It’s common for a dying person to spend more time in bed. You may need to help them get in and out of bed, roll them over regularly so they don’t get bedsores, or lift them to change the sheets. You can use equipment to help with lifting. Many people create space in the living room for the bed, particularly if bedrooms are located upstairs. The palliative care team can help you provide this care and arrange equipment such as a hospital bed.
  • Assist with toileting − You may have to help the person get on and off the toilet or commode, help them use urine bottles or bed pans if they can’t get out of bed, and sometimes help them to wipe themselves. Lifting someone is hard work and you may need help with this, either from another person or mobility aids or equipment. An occupational therapist can help you choose suitable equipment.
  • Sort out the paperwork − For many people who are dying, getting their affairs in order can help them feel like they’ve given closure to their life. You can help gather important documents, discuss the person’s choices for their future health care, and arrange legal advice if needed.
  • Record social media details − People often have more of a social media presence than they realise. You can help the person work out which social media accounts they have and what they want to happen to these accounts after they die, and then help compile a list of passwords and instructions.
  • Do odd jobs and run errands − Friends can offer to step in with walking the dog, mowing the lawn, picking up the kids or doing the shopping – anything that eases the workload of the main carer.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on facing end of life.

    Facing End of Life

  • 1 MB

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

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To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
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Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

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Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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