This paper focuses on the normative notion of ‘good death’, its practical relevance as a frame of reference for ‘death work’ procedures in institutional elder care in Switzerland and the ways in which it may be challenged within migrant ‘dying trajectories’. In contemporary palliative care, the concept of ‘good death’ focuses on the ideal of an autonomous dying person, cared for under a specialised biomedical authority. Transferred to the nursing home context, characterised by long-term basic care for the very old under conditions of scarce resources, the notion of ‘good death’ is broken down into ready-to-use, pragmatic elements of daily routines. At the same time, nursing homes are increasingly confronted with socially and culturally diversified populations. Based on ethnographic findings, we give insight into current practices of institutional ‘death work’ and tensions arising between contradicting notions of a ‘good death’, by referring to decision-making, life-prolonging measures, notions on food/feeding and the administration of sedative painkillers.