A new Harris/Decima survey has found the vast majority of Canadians support end-of-life care in the setting of their choice.
An online poll commissioned by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association found that 96 per cent of nearly 3,000 respondents want to choose where they die, be it at home in a long-term care facility or hospital.
Carol Derbyshire, executive director at the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County, wasn't surprised by the survey's findings.
"The majority of people I’ve come across over the years want to die at home," said Derbyshire, who has been working in hospice care for 35 years. "They want to be in their own home, comfortable, with their family around them."
Jim Storey has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He could die at any moment.
His wife, Bonnie Storey, is a retired nurse who believes in end-of-life care at home.
Together, they are trying to arrange for his last days to be spent outside of a hospital room.
"It's extremely important," Bonnie Storey said. "It is the plan that we made. There was never any doubt that it would be what we would do."
Hospitals have teams of professionals
Derbyshire said it can become difficult for a person to care for their dying loved one at home. Hospitals have teams of doctors, nurses and other professionals.
"Often times, as people get closer to death, symptoms come fast and furiously. It becomes difficult for the caregiver, if that’s the wife or husband, to manage this," Derbyshire said.
Storey said she has "a backup plan" should things become too difficult for here.
"If I could not care for him, I know I’d have the support of the professional health-care providers who come into the house to care for him," Storey said. "There will be all kinds of people who will say ‘you can’t do this anymore, Bonnie.’”
According to the survey, two thirds of Canadians haven't had discussed end-of-life care options. Only 13 per cent have completed an advance care plan.
Less than half of Canadians - 49 per cent - know that palliative care is even available outside a hospital, long-term care facility or hospice.
"Talk about it when you’re still healthy. It makes everyone’s life easier," Derbyshire said. "It’s heartbreaking to watch families when they get into those late stages of illness and start raising these issues. There’s nothing worse than after the loved one is gone and families agonize over whether they did the right thing.
"Document what you want. If you don’t want to have the discussion, if it’s that difficult, write it down."