Having the Hospice Conversation


  • 90% of the people think it’s important to talk about their loved ones and their own wishes for end of life. Less than 30% of people have discussed what they or their family wants when it comes to end of life care. Source: National Survey by the Conversation Project 2013
  • 60% of people say that making sure their family is not burdened by tough decisions is “extremely important.” 56% have not communicated their end of life wishes. Source: Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation 2012
  • 70% of people say they would prefer to die at home. 27% of deaths in the U.S. occur at home. Source: CDC data & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • 80% of people say if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctors about end of life care. 7% report having had an end of life conversation with their doctor. Source: Survey of Californians by the California HealthCare Foundation 2012

It is one of the most difficult conversations a doctor can have with a patient – deciding how and where the terminally ill should best spend their final days. A 2012 survey by the California HealthCare Foundation found that 80% of people say that if seriously ill, they would want to talk to their doctor about end of life care, yet only 7% have reported having had that conversation. It has been found that patients who have end of life discussions with their physicians had better outcomes. Patients are able to ask questions, weigh options and share with their families. The patients’ fears and wishes can be addressed, thus giving them better quality of life in the time they have left.

Studies have also shown that those who died in hospitals experienced more physical and psychological discomfort than those who died at home. 70 percent of people say they would rather die at home opposed to a hospital, yet the majority of deaths still occur in a hospital setting. The disconnect lies mainly in people not knowing their options and sharing their wishes.

In having these conversations early on, we are giving our patients back some control over their lives. They can participate fully and hopefully have better peace of mind to enjoy those last years, months and days. These conversations will hopefully encourage patients to talk to their loved ones about their wishes and, thus, elevate some of the burden of guessing or assuming what the patient would have wanted.

Northern Illinois Hospice offers one-on-one and/or group training to clinicians and to the public on having the end of life conversation. To learn more about this training, please call Marketing & Community Relations Director Jolene Smith at 815.398.0500 or email jsmith@niha.org.

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