Background: the need for palliative and end of life care for the oldest old is growing rapidly. Family carers often report they do not feel well supported; for better practice and policy, we need better understanding of their experiences and how to support them. Design and setting: people in the LiLACS NZ longitudinal study of advanced age identified a carer to be interviewed after their death. Nominated caregivers were contacted 3–6 months after an older person’s death and invited to take part in the current study. Subjects: fifty-eight interviews were conducted with carers of 52 people in advanced age, 20 Maori and 32 non-Maori. The majority of the 58 carers were in their 60 s and were women. Methods: guided-conversation interviews covered end of life preferences and experiences, needs and gaps in support, arrangements after death, and experiences of bereavement. Rigorous data analysis included multiple researchers identifying and interrogating themes across and within: the transcripts, and feedback and discussion with participants. Results: we identify a typology of nine categories of care, and argue that the support and care provided by family should be understood as going beyond simple task-based transactions. We present a model of end of life care describing and explaining inter-related aspects of knowing, doing and negotiating care tasks. Conclusions: this work furthers current understandings of care, as multifaceted and negotiated. This has very practical implications for thinking about how best to support the complex end of life caregiving work of people caring for a person in advanced age.