Yes, We Want to Die at Home and We Can

Many of us Canadians want to die in the comfort of our own home, over 90% in fact.  Yet roughly 70% of us die in care homes or hospitals. Amongst the many reasons for the gap in the wish versus the actual reality is the fact we just don’t know how to handle a home death and tend to rely on healthcare systems and professionals to handle it for us.

There is an alternative and all we need to do is be prepared, well planned, and have the family on the same page.

I worked with a family recently, we’ll call them the Jones’, Grandma was elderly, 96 years old and was insistent on dying in her family home. Her care needs were not complex and a home death was manageable. So the family and I set out to make Grandma’s wish a reality. All we need to do was plan.

We involved a social worker from the hospital Grandma had often received care in, her doctor, the Red Cross, and community nursing. We created a family team to quarterback it all and name a family team leader. Importantly we created a care schedule for Grandma that was the basis for her care during the final months of her life.

Toilet assists and a hospital bed were organized with the Red Cross.

Home care nurses were organized through the local health authority.

Home safety needs especially carpets and stairs were attended to.

Medical visits were schedules to manage Grandma’s ever changing care needs.

The Letter of Expected Death in the Home was completed by the family doctor, a copy of which stayed in the home and a duplicate was delivered to the funeral home responsible for caring for Grandma after her death.

Grandma’s care provider schedule was created and posted on the fridge door for all to see. And,

Family members were kept up-to-date with all the developments.

As Grandma’s health continued to decline a visiting schedule was set up so as not to over tax her life energy.

Now this may sound like a substantial amount of work and yes it was. The family said to me once all was said and done and Grandma was resting at peace in her burial plot, that it was SO WORTH IT!

Grandma died in the front room of her home looking out over the gardens she had always tended and in the arms of one of her grandchildren with others holding the space with their loving presence. The end was graceful, tender, and loving – it was all that Grandma wanted and the family was so joyful that they had made her final wish come true.

The moral of the story? Be prepared, and have your end of life arrangements ready well before you need them. Pre-planning is a generous gift we can give to our families that does enable graceful passing.

The Staff Team


Published by: Hickman, Susan (Times-Colonist) <>