The complex relationship between household income of family caregivers, access to palliative care services and place of death: A national household population survey

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Abstract

Background:

Previous work shows that more affluent patients with cancer are more likely to die at home, whereas those dying from non-cancer conditions are more likely to die in hospital. Family caregivers are an important factor in determining place of death.

Aim:

To investigate associations between family caregivers’ household income, patients’ access to specialist palliative care and place of patients’ death, by level of personal end-of-life care.

Design:

A cross-sectional community household population survey.

Setting and participants:

Respondents to the Household Survey for England.

Results:

One-third of 1265 bereaved respondents had provided personal end-of-life care (caregivers) (30%). Just over half (55%) of decedents accessed palliative care services and 15% died in a hospice. Place of death and access to palliative care were strongly related (p < 0.001). Palliative care services reduced the proportion of deaths in hospital (p < 0.001), and decedents accessing palliative care were more likely to die at home than those who did not (p < 0.001). Respondents’ income was not associated with palliative care access (p = 0.233). Overall, respondents’ income and home death were not related (p = 0.106), but decedents with caregivers in the highest income group were least likely to die at home (p = 0.069).

Conclusion:

For people who had someone close to them die, decedents’ access to palliative care services was associated with fewer deaths in hospital and more home deaths. Respondents’ income was unrelated to care recipients’ place of death when adjusted for palliative care access. When only caregivers were considered, decedents with caregivers from higher income quartiles were the least likely to die at home. Family caregivers from higher income brackets are likely to be powerful patient advocates. Caregiver information needs must be addressed especially with regard to stage of disease, aim of care and appropriate interventions at the end of life.

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