Older people living in care homes often have limited life expectancy. Practitioners and policymakers are increasingly questioning the appropriateness of many acute hospital admissions and the quality of end-of-life care provided in care homes.
To describe care home residents' trajectories to death and care provision in their final weeks of life.
Twenty-three out of 121 recruited residents died during the study period. Four trajectories to death were identified: 'anticipated dying' with an identifiable end-of-life care period and death in the care home (n = 9); 'unexpected dying' with death in the care home that was not anticipated and often sudden (n = 3); 'uncertain dying' with a period of diagnostic uncertainty or difficult symptom management leading to hospital admission and inpatient death (n = 7); and 'unpredictable dying' with an unexpected event leading to hospital admission and inpatient death (n = 4). End-of-life care tools were rarely used. Most residents who had had one or more acute hospital admission were still alive at the end of the study.