You might be thinking about how and where you will be cared for as you approach the end of your life. This can make you feel more prepared and more confident about making decisions. And it can help you get the support you need. Planning ahead can also make things easier for your family and friends.
It can be difficult to think about these things. Some men prefer to focus on the time they have left and may not want to think about or plan for their death. Thinking about dying can make it seem more real. And it can be difficult to talk about these things. Some men worry about upsetting their family and friends. Everyone reacts differently and there’s no right or wrong way to feel.
What care will I receive?
What is palliative care?
If you have advanced prostate cancer, you may hear the term palliative care. It's sometimes called supportive care. Palliative care aims to manage pain and other symptoms. It aims to provide emotional, physical, practical and spiritual support. It also provides support for your family and for people looking after you.
Palliative care can be provided at any stage of advanced prostate cancer. It isn’t just for men in their final weeks and days, although it does include end of life care. Men with advanced prostate cancer might receive palliative care for many months or years.
Palliative care may include:
- treating and managing pain and other symptoms
- talking about how you’re feeling and finding ways to cope
- relaxation services, such as massage or aromatherapy
- social groups to help you enjoy life and not feel isolated
- help getting the financial and practical support you need
- support for your family and other people looking after you.
You might get this care in a hospice, hospital, care home, or your own home. Where you get this care will depend on what you need, what you prefer, and the services in your local area.
Even if you don’t need any support at the moment, it can help to know what support is available. Speak to your GP to find out what support might be suitable or available for you, now or in the future.
At the end of life
You and your family should get high-quality care and support as you approach the end of your life. This care includes things like managing pain and making sure you are comfortable. You should be cared for with respect and dignity.
Your doctor will look at your medicines and your care, and may suggest changes based on what you need. You and your doctor can create a plan so that you can decide about your future care and let your doctor, nurse and family know your wishes. You might hear this called an advance care plan. You can tell your doctor or nurse about the care and support you and your family need and want.
If your doctor thinks you will die very soon, they will explain this to you and the people close to you. Some people don’t want to know if they are about to die. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what you want to be told.
There isn’t a specific point in time when a doctor should refer someone for end of life care. This varies from man to man and will depend on what support you and your loved ones need.
Make sure you ask your doctor or nurse if you have any worries or questions about your care. Or speak to our Specialist Nurses.
Getting access to care
Your GP can refer you for palliative care and end of life care. Even if your doctor or nurse doesn’t bring this up, you can still ask them about it. They can explain the services in your area and what support might be suitable.
Some men don’t want to be referred for palliative care and support as they think it's just for people in their final weeks and days. But having palliative care can really support you and your family.
If you’re a family member or friend of someone with advanced prostate cancer, you can also get palliative care support. Your GP can refer you for support even if your loved one doesn’t want to be referred.
Where will I be cared for?
You may have thought about where you would prefer to be cared for towards the end of your life and where you’d prefer to die. This might change over time. For example, you may prefer to be cared for at home and then go to a hospice in your final days when you need more support.
Places you can be cared for may include:
- a hospital
- a hospice
- your own home
- a family member or friend’s home
- a nursing home
- a residential home.
When deciding where you would prefer to be cared for, you should try to think about what’s important to you. You might want to think about:
- your physical and personal needs
- how any pain can be managed
- whether a family member or friend could help look after you
- who can help you during the day, in the evenings and at weekends
- how easy it is for your loved ones to visit and when they can visit
- being in a calm and peaceful environment
- the needs and preferences of your family and friends.
You might not be able to choose where you’re cared for or where you’ll die. This can be upsetting for you and your family. But certain physical and personal needs can be managed better in some places than in others. For example, some men need medicines or care that can’t be given at home. And some men die in hospital before they’re able to go home. It might also depend on the services available in your area. If you or your loved one live in a nursing home you may need to ask what services they provide – as this can vary – to help you work out if your needs can be met.
Getting help at home
If you want to stay at home your GP and district or community nurse, and sometimes social services, will assess your needs and co-ordinate your care. You might be seen by a nurse. They can visit you at home and arrange for other people to support you. For example, you might have carers come in to help with washing and eating. Hospices and community palliative care services often provide care and support in people’s homes. This can include night care but you would need to check what is available in your local area. Contact Marie Curie for more information about getting support at home.
Your GP may prescribe medicines to help with any physical symptoms, such as pain. These may be medicines you take yourself, or a nurse may come and give them to you. They may also prescribe medicines that you’ll only need to take if your symptoms get worse.
You won’t have a nurse with you all the time. So it can sometimes be harder to manage pain and other symptoms at home. Your doctor or nurse should give you details of someone to contact if you are worried, including in the evenings and at weekends.
Your family and friends may have an important role in looking after you. It’s important to think about what support they might need as well. Read more about supporting someone who’s approaching the end of their life.
If you live on your own
It can be especially hard to cope at home. If you have friends or neighbours nearby, they may be able to help. Joining our online community or a local support group, or accessing our one-to-one support service can also be a good way of speaking to people with similar experiences. Speak to your doctor or nurse about what support is available for you.
Hospices provide a range of services for men with advanced prostate cancer, and their family and friends. They can provide some of the palliative services listed above. This includes treatment to manage symptoms, as well as emotional, spiritual, psychological, practical and social support. Some services will help give your family or friends a break from caring. This is called respite care.
Hospices don’t just provide care for people at the end of their life. They will look at you and your family’s needs and talk to you about the support you might need.
There are different types of hospice care.
- In your home. This is how most hospice care is provided. It means people can get support and care in their own home.
- Day care. Some people visit a hospice during the day. This means they can use their services while still living at home.
- Short stay. You might be able to stay in the hospice for a few days. This might be to help get your symptoms under control, or to give your loved ones a short break.
- During the final stages of your illness. Some people decide they want to be cared for in a hospice during their final days. Having people around to help you and your family can be reassuring.
Hospice care is free for patients, family members and the people looking after them.
Most hospices are happy to tell you about the services they provide and show you around.
Your GP, hospital doctor or district nurse can refer you to a hospice service. Find out more about hospice services in your area from Hospice UK.
Going in to hospital
Many men with prostate cancer stay in hospital at some point in their last years of life. Some men decide to go into hospital to help get their symptoms under control. Other men have to go into hospital if their symptoms suddenly get worse. This can be distressing or upsetting, but it may be the best way to get the care you need.
Some hospitals can access your medical records and see the treatments you’ve had and medicines you’re taking. But you might find it useful to keep a record of your treatments and medicines, just in case you need to go to a hospital that doesn’t have your records.
If you’re admitted to hospital, this may just be for a few days until your symptoms are under control. But some men with prostate cancer die in hospital. Make sure the doctors and nurses know where you’d prefer to be cared for and where you'd prefer to die, so that you can make decisions together.
Who will be involved in my care?
Most of your care will be provided by your GP or a community nurse, unless you go into a hospital or a hospice. They will work with other health professionals to co-ordinate your care and offer you support and advice. They can also refer you to local services. They can visit you in your home and help support your family.
A range of different professionals might help manage your symptoms and offer emotional and practical support. Some may have been treating you since your diagnosis. Others provide specific services or specialise in palliative care.
Who is looking after you will depend on your own needs and the services in your local area.
Specialist nurses specialise in caring for men with prostate cancer. You may also hear them called a urology nurse specialist or clinical nurse specialist (CNS). They may be the health professional you've seen the most during your treatment. They provide care and offer advice on managing symptoms of prostate cancer and the side effects of treatment. They also provide emotional support. Your specialist nurse could also be your palliative care nurse.
Urologists are surgeons who specialise in treating problems with the urinary and reproductive systems, which includes the prostate.
Oncologists are doctors who specialise in treating cancer using treatments other than surgery, including external beam radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.
Palliative care teams include specialist doctors and nurses who provide treatment to manage pain and other symptoms of advanced cancer. They also provide emotional, physical, practical and spiritual support for you and your family. You might hear this called symptom control or supportive care. They work in hospitals and hospices, and they might be able to visit you at home. Your hospital doctor, nurse or GP can refer you to a palliative care team.
Community nurses care for you in your own home or in a nursing home or hospice. You might hear them called Macmillan nurses, Marie Curie nurses, community palliative care nurses or hospice nurses. They all do the same work.
Palliative care nurses are part of your palliative care team. You might hear your palliative care nurse called a Macmillan nurse. But not all palliative care nurses are Macmillan nurses. And Macmillan nurses aren’t always palliative care nurses. This will depend on your local services.
Marie Curie nurses provide nursing care to people in the last few months or weeks of life. They visit people at home and often provide care overnight. They also offer practical advice and emotional support to you and your family. They help to give partners and family members a break so that they are able to rest. Your district nurse can arrange a Marie Curie nurse for you. Services vary depending on where you live. In some areas, a hospice may provide this care rather than Marie Curie nurses.
Family support teams offer support to you and your family, including any children you have. Many hospices or palliative care services provide support for family and friends.
Physiotherapists can help with mobility and provide exercises to help improve fitness or ease pain. This can help you stay independent for longer.
Counsellors or psychotherapists can help you and your family to talk about and work through any difficult feelings and find ways of coping.
Dietitians can help if you are losing weight or having problems eating.
Social services, including social workers can provide practical and financial advice and access to emotional support. They can give you advice about practical issues such as arranging for someone to support you at home. What’s available varies from place to place. Your GP, hospital doctor or nurse might be able to refer you to some services. You can also contact your local social services department yourself. Find the contact details of your local social services department from GOV.UK.
Occupational therapists can provide advice and access to equipment and adaptations to help with daily life – for example, help with dressing, eating, bathing or using the stairs. Your social services department or your GP should be able to arrange for an occupational therapist to visit you.
Your family and friends may also be involved in caring for you. Read more about supporting someone who is dying from prostate cancer.
Making decisions about my future care
You might need to make decisions about your medical and personal care. For example, you may need to decide how and where you’d prefer to be cared for and whether there are any treatments you don’t want to have. You, your loved ones, and your doctor or nurse will usually make these decisions together.
But some men become too unwell to make these decisions so you may want to think about the care you’d like to receive if this happens. This is called advance care planning and it can help you to make sure you get the care you want. It can also take the pressure off your family or friends.
Writing down my wishes
Advance care planning can be written down in a document called an advance statement. An advance statement (or anticipatory care plan in Scotland) is a general statement about anything that is important to you in relation to your future health and wellbeing. It can include:
- your preferences about the type of care you want
- who you would like to make decisions about your care, if you are unable to make them yourself
- where you would prefer to be cared for – for example, at home, in a hospice or at hospital
- where you would prefer to die.
Your doctor will take your advance statement into account when making any decisions about your care. But they don't legally have to follow what your advance statement says, and your doctor might not always be able to follow your wishes.
Deciding not to have certain treatments
If you decide that you don’t want to have certain treatments in the future, this is called an advance decision. An advance decision, advance directive to refuse treatment (ADRT) or living will, allows you to record any treatments you don’t want to have in certain circumstances. For example, you might want to think about whether or not you’d want to have cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stopped. An advance decision or advance directive is used if there’s ever a time when you are unable to make a decision for yourself, or if you can’t communicate what you want. For example, if you are unconscious or very sleepy in your final days.
You can’t use an advance decision or advance directive to ask for a specific treatment or to ask for your life to be ended.
An advance decision to refuse treatment is legally binding in England and Wales. This means your doctor or nurse would have to follow it.
In Scotland, you can make an advance directive to say what treatments you would refuse, if you were unable to decide for yourself or communicate your wishes. An advance directive isn’t legally binding, but your doctor or nurse would need to take it into account when making a decision on your behalf.
In Northern Ireland, advance decisions or directives aren’t legally binding. However, an advance decision could potentially be upheld under common law (in a court case). It’s still a good idea to record what treatments you would refuse if you couldn’t decide yourself or communicate your wishes. Your doctor or nurse should take this into account when making a decision on your behalf.
If you wish to make an advance decision or advance directive, you must do this in writing. Make sure your doctor, nurse, and family know about it. This means they can follow your wishes.
Speak to your partner, family, doctor and nurse about what to include. Your doctor can talk to you about this in more detail, and help you think about the consequences of any decision. You might hear this called a treatment escalation plan (TEP). Whatever you decide, your doctor or nurse will still try to make sure you are comfortable and not in pain.
You can change your advance decision or advance directive at any time. It’s a good idea to read it regularly to make sure it is still what you want.
Read more about how to make an advance decision or directive to refuse treatment from Marie Curie.
Support in making decisions
Thinking about your wishes and making decisions can be difficult. You don’t have to make any decisions if you don’t want to. Here are some things that may help.
- Talk to your doctor or nurse so they know your wishes when planning your care. They’ll keep a record of your decisions.
- Talk to your family about what you want, and help them understand your wishes. Let them know if you change your mind.
- Read more about making decisions about your care from Compassion in Dying, Age UK, Marie Curie and the NHS website.
- Read more about making an advance decision on from Compassion in Dying.
Appointing someone to make decisions for you
You, your loved ones, and your doctor or nurse will usually make decisions about your care together. But you can choose someone to make decisions for you if you’re unable to – for example, if you are unconscious. This person is known as an attorney, and the legal document is known as a lasting power of attorney.
You can choose one or more people to make decisions for you. They should be someone you trust, like a family member or friend.
Health professionals must respect your wishes about who you would like to make decisions about your care.
If you are a gay or bisexual man and want your same sex partner to make decisions for you, make sure your doctor and family are aware of your wishes.
There are two types of lasting power of attorney.
- A property and financial affairs lasting power of attorney can make decisions about money and property.
- A health and welfare lasting power of attorney can make decisions about your health, personal care and welfare.
Getting financial support
You may be able to get financial support to help with your medical and personal care. Financial support may include:
- access to benefits
- carer’s allowance for someone who is looking after you
- free prescriptions (for people with cancer in England and/or those over 60 years old, and free for everyone across the rest of the UK)
- grants from charities or other organisations
- help sorting out your bank accounts or pension
- bereavement allowance for your husband, partner or wife.
You can also apply for end of life benefits. You might hear these called Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or Attendance Allowance (AA). Anyone who isn’t expected to live longer than six months can apply. If you're not sure whether this applies to you, you could ask your doctor or nurse. It doesn’t matter how much money you or your family earn or have in savings.
Speak to your doctor, nurse or social worker about how to apply for benefits and grants. Or find out more from Macmillan Cancer Support.
Sorting out practical things
You could give your family access to financial and practical information they will need in the future. For example, information about bills and outgoing payments, your life insurance details or bank account information. Putting this information in one place can make things easier for your family in the future. It can also give you something to focus on.
You may want to think about using a secure online password manager which allows you to choose someone else to get access to your usernames and passwords when you are not around.
Making a Will
By making a Will you can decide who will get your money, possessions and property after you die. If you die without making a Will, the government will decide who gets these things. You don’t need a solicitor to make a Will, but using one makes sure your Will is made properly.
Making a funeral plan
Some people want to be involved in decisions about their own funeral, such as whether they will be buried or cremated, or what music or readings to have. Some people take comfort in making these plans. But other people prefer not to think about this.
If you do want to think about your funeral, you could discuss your wishes with your family, or write them down. Some people include instructions for their funeral in their Will.
References and reviewers
Updated: July 2018 | Due for Review: May 2021
This information was reviewed by our Specialist Nurses for clinical accuracy in August 2021.
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- Kate Bullen, Head of School for Applied Social Science, University of Brighton, Brighton
- Jackie Dawson, Community Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
- Hazel Parsons, Palliative Care Nurse Specialists, Dorothy House Hospice, Winsley, Bradford on Avon
- Elizabeth Rees, Lead Nurse for end of life care, Leeds Teaching Hospitals
- Our Specialist Nurses
- Our Volunteers.