(Mirror Daily, United States) – UK researchers say terminal cancer patients die more peacefully at home and they seem to experience less pain than those who breathe their last on a hospital bed.
However, the study published in the journal BMC Medicine also noted the benefits depend on more factors, such as personal preference, family careers, and access to home care services. It was also key for patients who wanted to die at home to have access to specialist palliative care nurses, such as those provided by charities.
According to prior research, the majority of people would rather die at home, but in spite of this, the hospital bed remains the most frequent place of death for cancer patients. At the same time, there is yet to be found if dying at home is better or worse than in hospital, because evidence has been inconsistent on the subject.
Researchers have analyzed the questionnaires completed by 352 relatives of deceased cancer patients from London; 177 of these patients had died in hospital while 175 saw their end at home. The questions dealt with validated measures of the patient’s pain – and peace – during their last week of life, in addition to the relative’s own grief levels.
Lead author Dr. Barbara Gomes of the Cicely Saunders Institute at King’s College London said this study is the “most comprehensive” to date trying to compare the benefits and outcomes associated with dying at home or in a hospital.
One of the biggest fears patients have is being a burden on their families if they choose to be at home. But, surprisingly, relatives experienced grief of lower intensity when the patient died at home.
Second worry is experiencing more pain outside the hospital where access is easier to pain-relieving medication; but the study noticed that patients dying at home were not in greater pain than those in hospitals. Moreover, their deaths have been less painful and more peaceful.
The study also found that access to home palliative care nurses was key in fulfilling the patient’s wish of dying at home. Patients who benefited from the services of Marie Curie nurses rarely died in hospital, the authors noted. Such findings should prompt better access to 24/7 home specialist palliative care services.
Dr. Jane Collins, chief executive of Marie Curie, added that their reports show that patients with terminal cancer are less likely to die in hospital if they have the support and care of a Marie Curie nurse, and more likely to die at home, where they want to be.
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