More Australians Want to Die at Home: Report
30 September 2014 at 11:30 am
Only 14 per cent of Australians die at home, despite 70 per cent of them wanting to, and dying is more institutionalised in Australia than in most other countries, according to a new report by the Grattan Institute.
The report, Dying Well, was released this week and found that despite their wishes, about half of Australians die in hospital and a third in residential care.
Medical and community attitudes plus a lack of funds for formal, home-based care meant that Australians die at home at half the rate that people do in New Zealand, the United States, Ireland and France, among other countries.
The report’s co-author Professor Hal Swerissen said it urged policy and attitude changes to enable more people to die comfortably at home and in home-like environments, surrounded by family, friends and effective services.
“More than at any time in history, most people die when they are old, and are more likely than past generations to know when in the near future they are going to die,” Professor Swerissen said.
“That gives us a great opportunity to help people plan to die well – but we’re not taking it.”
Dying Well found that because most people do not speak up about the way they would like to die, they often experience a disconnected, confusing and distressing array of services, interventions and relationships with health professionals.
The report recommended more public discussion, including an education campaign, about the limits of health care as death approaches and the need to focus on end-of-life care.
It also proposed the widespread adoption of advance care plans that ensure people’s desires for the end of life are met.
Finally, it recommends greater investment in community-based care to enable services for those dying of chronic illness to shift their focus from cures and institutional care to supporting people’s wishes to die at home.
Doubling the number of people who die at home would cost $237 million a year, according to the report, but about the same amount of institutional care funds could be released to pay for it.
“The baby boomers are growing old and in the next 25 years the number of Australians who die each year will double,” Professor Swerissen said.
“We need the courage to promote a national discussion about a subject that we might dislike but cannot avoid.”
The Dying Well report can be found here.