The preferred place of last days: results of a representative population-based public survey

J Palliat Med. 2013 May;16(5):502-8. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2012.0262. Epub 2013 Feb 19.


Background: The place of death is of considerable interest now, yet few studies have determined public preferences for place of end-of-life (EOL) care or final days of life.

Objective: A survey was designed to answer three questions: (1) What are public preferences for the place of last days? (2) Is this place preference related to socio-demographic and other background characteristics? and (3) Is this place preference associated with specified previous death and dying experiences, the preparation of a living will or advance directive, or a viewpoint supportive of death hastening?

Design: An experienced telephone survey company was commissioned to gain a representative population-based sample and survey participants. In mid-2010, 1203 adults were surveyed in Alberta. Descriptive statistics and multinomial logistic regression were conducted.

Results: This survey revealed 70.8% preferred to be at home near death; while 14.7% preferred a hospice/palliative care facility, 7.0% a hospital, and 1.7% a nursing home; 5.7% had no stated preference. Marital status was the only predictor of place preference, with widowed persons more often indicating a preference for a hospital or hospice/palliative care facility.

Conclusions: These findings suggest homes are the preferred EOL place now for the majority of Albertans, if not other citizens, while at the same time suggesting that marital and living arrangement realities temper EOL place choices and possibilities, with widows best realizing the need for assistance from others when dying. The widespread preference for home-based EOL care indicates public health interventions are needed to promote good home deaths.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marital Status
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care*