Why You May Not Be Able To Die At Home, Even If You Want To

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Unfortunately, one of the most important decisions of your life may not be up to you.

A person’s final days are never an easy thing to face, but one of the small measures of comfort many hope for is the chance to spend their remaining time in the soothing confines of their own home. Sadly, there are circumstances that can make this simple wish extremely difficult to fulfill.

According to an Los Angeles Times op-ed written by Haider Javed Warraich, a fellow in cardiovascular disease at Duke University Medical Center, there are essentially four situations that could prevent a loved one from being released from hospital care and allowed to return home.

1. Social Support

If the hospital determines a patient requires 24-hour supervision, they may not have assurances that such care will be available at the patient’s home. The intense emotional strain around-the-clock care puts on the patient’s loved ones is also a factor, which might make remaining in the hospital the best course of action for all involved.

2. Geography

Warraich writes that one’s proximity to a hospital increases their chances of dying there. Often, patients who die at home do so because there are simply too few hospitals -- and hospital beds -- available to them.

3. Race/Culture

Because home care is expensive, a disproportionate amount of white people are afforded the luxury of dying at home. Since the 1980s, only 34% of white people died in hospitals compared to 43% and 44% for African Americans and Hispanics.

4. The Disease Itself

Cancer tends to progress in ways that are common and predictable, so doctors are more likely to let cancer patients return home. Something more volatile, like heart disease, requires more stringent supervision.

[via Los Angeles Times]

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