• 72°

Terminally ill willing to discuss death

Among terminally ill people surveyed who had never spent time as an inpatient within a hospice-related facility, 79 percent indicated a preference for spending their final days at home. However, among those terminally ill patients who had spent any amount of time during their illness as an inpatient in a facility offering hospice, 80 percent indicated that their preference was to remain there for their last days.

That may seem puzzling to you, but if you’ve ever had a loved one or patient on hospice, you’re much more aware that towards the end of life the needs of the patient or loved are different.

They can be much more complex, and within the palliative care setting, the familiarity with the hospice staff and those administering pain management drugs is often more comforting than dealing with visiting physicians or care providers with whom they are not familiar.

Sadly, terminally ill patients who were not asked or given a chance to stipulate where they preferred to die were three-times more likely to pass away in the hospital than those patients that had made their preferences known. That’s in comparison to 85 percent of patients who had stated their preferences, and were in their place of choice upon their deaths. Interestingly, just 15 percent of patients who did not specify a preference for their final days were unwilling to have the discussion about their choice of locations.

Hopefully, what we learn from studies such as this encourages those caring for terminally ill patients and loved ones to feel more comfortable discussing the impending death.

Doing that actually provides the patient with control as to how he or she wishes to be cared for, and provides you, the care provider with input as to how you can best help them meet their final wishes. That should be a goal for all of us when providing end of life care.


Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert on issues of geriatrics and aging. He’s in private practice in Henderson and Polk Counties. He is the author of Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease, available on Amazon.com and at the Polk County Senior Center. His podcasts can be heard weekly at www.seniorlifestyles.net. Contact him at 828-696-9799 or by email at drron561@gmail.com.