Care homes are increasingly becoming places where people spend the final stages of their lives and eventually
die. This trend is expected to continue due to population ageing, yet little is known about public preferences regarding this
setting. As part of a larger study examining preferences and priorities for end of life care, we investigated the extent to
which care homes are chosen as the least preferred place of death, and the factors associated with this negative preference.
conducted a cross-sectional telephone survey among 9,344 adults from random private households in England, Flanders, Germany,
Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. We asked participants where they would least prefer to die in a situation of serious
illness with less than one year to live. Multivariate binary logistic regressions were used to identify factors associated
with choosing care homes as the least preferred place of death in each country.
Care homes were the most
frequently mentioned least preferred place of death in the Netherlands (41.5%), Italy and Spain (both 36.7%) and the second
most frequent in England (28.0%), Portugal (25.8%), Germany (23.7%) and Flanders (18.9%). Only two factors had a similar and
significant effect on the least preferred place of death in more than one country. In Germany and the Netherlands those doing
housework were less likely to choose care homes as their least preferred place (AOR 0.72; 95% CI:0.54-0.96 and AOR 0.68; 95%
CI:0.52-0.90 respectively), while those born in the country where the survey took place were more likely to choose care homes
(AOR 1.77; 95% CI:1.05-2.99 and AOR 1.74; 95% CI:1.03-2.95 respectively). Experiences of serious illness, death and dying
were not associated with the preference.
Our results suggest it might be difficult to promote care
homes as a good place to die. This is an urgent research area in order to meet needs and preferences of a growing number of
older people with chronic, debilitating conditions across Europe. From a research perspective and in order to allow people
to be cared for and die where they wish, our findings highlight the need to build more in depth evidence on reasons underlying
this negative preference.