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Many Patients Don’t Get Their Wish To Die At Home

Hospice patients (squishband/Flickr)

Hospice patients (squishband/Flickr)

A majority of people say they want to die at home surrounded by loved ones, but more than 70 percent of us die in hospitals and other institutions, often with tubes inserted into our bodies.

Even though studies show that end-of-life conversations between doctors and patients lead to a more dignified death with fewer costly interventions, theses conversations are still rare. Though the use of hospice has increased, 37 percent of patients in Massachusetts don’t receive hospice care until the last week of life, often too late to attend to all the needs of the dying.

A Massachusetts panel last week issued recommendations to help patients receive proper end-of-life care. As a result, state Sen. Pat Jehlen plans to issue legislation that would expand hospice coverage for medicaid recipients.

Even patients who have hospice coverage often can’t afford to augment the care with hired help or family members, and end up dying in institutions where the costs to the insurer and the government are far greater.

We focus on what is preventing people from dying at home, if that’s what they choose.


  • Lachlan Forrow, M.D., director of the Palliative Care program, Beth Israel Deaconess; chair, End-of-Life Care panel
  • Pam Saucier, R.N., vice president, Merrimack Valley Hospice
  • Patricia Jehlen, state senator


Other stories from this show:

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  • Franchittod

    Whether I die at home or not doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to die on the toilet like Elvis did. That’s cool(after a long, healthy life of course)

  • http://www.caringfordyinglovedones.com Joanna Lillian Brown

    Thank you for airing this show. With millions of Baby Boomers nearing retirement, there is a profound crisis brewing. The present end-of-life care system of nursing homes–already inadequate–will not be able to handle the increased numbers of ailing Boomers who will need end of life care in the decades to come. We must encourage a continuing dialogue about end of life care in order to change our death-phobic culture into one that honors and respects the last chapter of life.

  • Carolrl

    Isn’t it curious how much time we take to talk about social plans, college plans and vacation plans without discussing life care plans as we grow older. Thank you for airing this show which highlights the importance of informing and empowering people about their choices of end-of-life care and reminds families to begin that often difficult conversation with their aging loved ones. In my experience as a social worker who specializes in gerontology, when families plan and talk with their aging loved ones about future wishes and fears, their stress is lower, the care provided to the person in need of care is better and there are fewer family crises. Knowledgeable resources like the team of social workers at Care.com (www.care.com/scc) help families navigate the complexities of senior care, to plan and find additional supports like the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Speaking with an elder care expert can make a world of difference whether you have just begun to plan, have already had many conversations with your parent about their wishes, or you just have questions and need someone who has expertise in the field!

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