PURPOSE: To explore the associations between place of death and quality of death and dying and caregiver burden in terminally ill patients with cancer and their families.
METHODS: Two bereavement surveys were conducted in October 2008 and October 2011. A total of 2,247 family caregivers of patients with cancer who were deceased responded to the mail surveys (response rate, 67%). Family members reported patient quality of death and dying and caregiver burden by using the Good Death Inventory and Caregiving Consequences Inventory.
RESULTS: Patient quality of death and dying was significantly higher at home relative to other places of dying after adjustment for patient and/or family characteristics (adjusted means): 5.0 (95% CI, 4.9 to 5.2) for home, 4.6 (95% CI, 4.5 to 4.7) for palliative care units, and 4.3 (95% CI, 4.2 to 4.4) for hospitals. For all combinations, pairwise P < .001; the size of the difference between home and hospital was moderate (Hedges' g, 0.45). Home was superior to palliative care units or hospitals with respect to "dying in a favorite place," "good relationships with medical staff," "good relationships with family," and "maintaining hope and pleasure" (P < .001 for all combinations of home v palliative care units and home v hospitals). Home death was significantly associated with a lower overall (P = .03) and financial caregiver burden (P = .004) relative to hospital death.
CONCLUSION: Dying at home may contribute to achieving good death in terminally ill patients with cancer without causing remarkably increased caregiver burden. Place of death should be regarded as an essential goal in end-of-life care.
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