The places Americans are most likely to die are shifting.
For much of human history, dying at home has been the norm. Around the mid-20th century, that began to change for Americans. We began dying more in hospitals and nursing homes than in our own dwellings. Now, the pendulum is swinging back. As of 2017, Americans dying of natural causes — not accidents, poisonings or homicides — are doing so at home more than anywhere else.
Researchers wrote of the reversal in The New England Journal of Medicine. Their conclusions were based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics.
In 2003, nearly 40% of natural deaths occurred in hospitals. About 24% of deaths were at home. In 2017, home became the most common place where people died, accounting for just over 30% of natural deaths. Deaths in hospitals were slightly lower, at 29.8%.
People with cancer were the most likely to die at home. Other common locations include hospice and nursing facilities.
While it’s hardly a pleasant topic and many people avoid talking about it, the researchers found that most people prefer to die in their own home. Often, however, their health conditions and other circumstances mean the process may not be a simple one.
For a home death experience that’s as low stress as possible, there are a number of things to consider, as highlighted by the Mayo Clinic. Who will be the caregiver? Should a home hospice team assist? Should a religious leader be present? What types of medical support should be continued?
With the growing trend of dying at home, these are must-have discussions for families.