Families: Hospice Best for Dying Cancer Patients
Doctors need to heed preferences of patients, prepare for end of life sooner, experts say
By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, Jan. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Families of patients dying of cancer felt their loved one had better care and quality of life when they died in a hospice rather than in a hospital's intensive care unit, a new study reveals.
Relatives reported a better end-of-life experience more often when their loved one received hospice care for more than three days (59 percent) than those who received hospice care for three or fewer days (43 percent). Moreover, only 45 percent of families reported excellent care when the patient was admitted to a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) within 30 days of dying, the researchers found.
"Our findings are a powerful argument for the importance of advance care planning," said lead researcher Dr. Alexi Wright, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
How and where people die strongly shapes patients' dying experience and how family members remember it, she said.
"In this study we found that patients' preferences influenced the care that they received. Now we need to ensure that patients and their family members have the information they need to make choices about their end-of-life experiences and plan for it," Wright said.
The report was published Jan. 19 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a special themed issue on end-of-life care.
For the study, Wright and her colleagues collected data on more than 1,100 cancer patients. The investigators used data from interviews with family members of Medicare patients with advanced lung or colon cancer from a study of patients who died by the end of 2011.
The researchers also found that only 42 percent of families of patients who died in the hospital said their loved one had excellent end-of-life care, compared with 57 percent of families whose loved ones died at home or in a hospice.
In addition, family members of patients who did not receive hospice care or received three or fewer days of hospice care were less likely to report the patient died in their preferred location (40 percent) than those who received hospice care for more than three days (73 percent).