Hospice care varies from assisted living, home settings: study

Assisted living residents starting hospice care may be closer to death than people receiving the same care at home, new research has found.

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society looked at medical data from nonprofit hospice programs across the United States. Researchers found that between 2008 and 2012, more than 78,000 patients received hospice care at home, while 7,451 lived in assisted living facilities.

Those receiving hospice care in assisted living facilities were typically older, female and more likely to have dementia, while hospice patients living at home were more likely to have cancer, the study authors wrote. Assisted living residents were also more likely to receive painkillers.

The data showed hospice stays were typically briefer for assisted living residents, lasting no more than 24 days for half of patients. Home hospice stays typically lasted at least 29 days for the majority of patients.

Assisted living residents were about half as likely as home hospice patients to die in a hospital, the study's authors noted.

“These findings point out the importance of thinking carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of care settings,” lead study author David Casarett M.D., director of palliative care for Penn Medicine, told Reuters.