Patient’s Want a Good Death at Home

The for-profit hospice industry has grown, allowing more Americans to die at home. But few family members realize that "hospice care" still means they'll do most of the physical and emotional work.

Maria Fabrizio for WPLN

“I’m not anti-hospice at all,” says Joy Johnston, a writer from Atlanta. “But I think people aren’t prepared for all the effort that it takes to give someone a good death at home.”

Even though surveys show it’s what most Americans say they want, dying at home is “not all it’s cracked up to be,” says Johnston, who relocated to New Mexico at age 40 to care for her dying mother some years ago. She ended up writing an essay about her frustrations with the way hospice care often works in the U.S.

Johnston, like many family caregivers, was surprised that her mother’s hospice provider left most of the physical work to her. She says that during the final weeks of her mother’s life, she felt more like a tired nurse than a devoted daughter.

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, seven in 10 Americans say they would prefer to die at home. And that’s the direction the health care system is moving, too, hoping to avoid unnecessary and expensive treatment at the end of life.

The home hospice movement has been great for patients, says Vanderbilt palliative care physician Parul Goyal, and many patients are thrilled with the care they get.

“I do think that when they are at home, they are in a peaceful environment,” Goyal says. “It is comfortable for them. But,” she notes, “it may not be comfortable for family members watching them taking their last breath.”

Still, when it comes to where we die, the U.S. has reached a tipping point. Home is now the most common place of death, according to new research, and a majority of Medicare patients are turning to…

This article was sourced from NPR.

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