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Changing Landscape of Goodbyes: Study Shows More People Dying at Home

A few years ago, a study showed that more people were dying at home for the first time since the early 20th century than in hospitals.

A few years ago, a study showed that more people were dying at home for the first time since the early 20th century than in hospitals. It began a trend that continues as more people seek out home health care and hospice. With more people seeking home healthcare and hospice care, the benefits of care at home continue to become more apparent.

On the heels of this 2019 study, the pandemic seems to have accelerated the trend, as reflected in California statistics that showed that 40 percent of people died at home in the first ten months of 2022. That’s up from 2019, when for the entire year, just 36 percent of Californians died at home.

Who Helps at Home?

About half of those who die at home receive hospice support from home health aides, hospice and palliative care workers, and nurses. As NPR reported, death doulas are also increasingly part of the end-of-life journey.

Advocates say though progress has been made, more should be done to give the best end-of-life care to patients. A report in The Atlantic explained how one doctor took his own father home from the hospital to avoid needless intervention by the medical system. And even when loved ones are at home, hospice can be hard on families. For some, home may not be the best place to die

But despite some challenges, according to the National Association For Homecare and Hospice, the numbers help clarify the benefits of receiving care at home. And the need will only grow as the population ages. 

Worker Shortages Worry Advocates

Here are a few examples

  • Twelve million Americans need home care, but only 33,000 home healthcare workers today.
  • U.S. citizens over 85 are expected to double from 2020 to 2030 to 4.8 million.
  • Nursing and home care workers are in short supply, concerning advocacy groups.
  • According to the National PACE Association (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for Elderly), nearly 1.4 million people living with a life-limiting illness receive care from hospices in this country.

Aging Baby Boomers

With an aging Baby Boomer population, the benefits of home healthcare workers will only grow over time. This rise in demand has raised concerns among advocacy groups about the availability of nursing and home care workers. According to SeniorLiving.org, $200 billion will be spent on home health care by 2027.

As Home Health Care News explains, “While the aging population is growing rapidly, a broader cultural shift is also largely to credit: More doctors are encouraging and accepting of hospice, more mediums are portraying it positively, and more people are discussing and planning for end of life.”

About 60 percent of people who could benefit from palliative care don’t receive it, according to another New England Journal of Medicine study.

A 2022 New England Journal of Medicine report calls for “high-quality end-of-life care that aligns with individual goals and needs” no matter where the patient spends their last days, weeks, or months.

Most Want to Be at Home, But Not Always Easy

A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 7 out of 10 Americans would prefer to die at home. But the toll on family caregivers can be difficult, and advocates say more support is needed.


Resources

You can find information about hospice services at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s website. Medicare pays for hospice care. See the Medicare website for more details. The Caring Info site, a project of the NHPCO, also has helpful information.

To learn more about new funeral movements, take a look at our article Preplanning and Millennials: The Motivations Behind the Movement.