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Helping People Age with Dignity

Many in Massachusetts spending end of life in hospitals

What particular end-of-life care a person receives can impact many things. This includes where they end up spending a majority of their time at the end of their life: at home or in a hospital.

How common is hospitalization in the last part of life for individuals here in Massachusetts? A recent study indicates it is pretty common.

The study looked at Medicare payment data regarding 27,100 Massachusetts residents. These residents all passed away in 2012. It also looked at some other recent research on this topic.

The study found that being hospitalized within the last half-year of life was something around two-thirds of the patients experienced. The average length of such hospitalization was 12 days.

Also, the study concluded that many of the patients didn’t receive much in the way of hospice care.

It is estimated that almost a fourth of individuals in Massachusetts are in a hospital when they pass away.

These types of numbers put Massachusetts near the bottom of the country when it comes to time residents spend at home (rather than places like hospitals) in the last half-year of their life.

So, it appears many Massachusetts residents spend a fair amount of time in hospitals towards the end of their lives. How do you think this reality compares to what preferences Massachusetts residents would have for what the end of their life would be like?

Many things can impact what kind of end-of-life care a person ends up receiving. One is what the medical culture is like in the state when it comes to end-of-life issues. What do you think the above-mentioned findings say about this culture in Massachusetts?

Another is whether the person has taken steps to outline what their preferences would be when it comes to such care. There are various documents, such as living wills and health care proxy documents, in which a person can set out what they would want to have happen regarding end-of-life care if they are incapacitated when the time to make decisions on such care comes around. Without laying out such preferences in documents, things other than their preferences (such as guardianship proceedings) could end up steering what ultimately happens with such care in the event of incapacity. So, individuals in Massachusetts may want to discuss end-of-life care planning options with a skilled attorney.

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