Place of death and access to home care services: are certain patient groups at a disadvantage?

Soc Sci Med. 1998 Sep;47(5):565-79. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(98)00115-4.


Research indicates that fewer people are able to die at home than would wish to do so. Furthermore the ability to die at home is unequally distributed depending on patient characteristics. Unless factors associated with home deaths are identified and interventions are targeted accordingly, further general improvements in care support may only help those already at an advantage. This paper reviews research investigating the relation between patient characteristics and home deaths and considers whether these variables influence place of death because they are associated with differential access to services, focusing on access to palliative home care. Patients with informal carer support were both more likely to die at home and to access palliative home care. Provision of home care did not remove the dependence on informal carers in achieving home death, however. An important target in improving home death rates is therefore better support for informal carers overall. Older patients were both less likely to die at home and to access home care. Once in home care they no longer were less likely to die at home. Although age related needs require consideration, improved access to home care is therefore likely to increase home deaths for older people. Women were less likely to die at home than men, yet younger women may be more likely to access home care. There is some evidence to suggest that men were less efficient as carers, which may help explain why women were less likely to achieve home deaths, while making their referral to home care more likely. While home care may help redress the gender imbalance, men may also need to be encouraged and enabled to take on the carer role. Cancer patients in higher socioeconomic groups were both more likely to die at home and to access home care. Hence home deaths may increase by improving access for lower socioeconomic groups to the services available.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • England
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / supply & distribution*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Palliative Care
  • Residence Characteristics