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The study was the first to ask seriously ill patients to state a preference for either living in a nursing home or dying. The findings come from the Support study, the largest investigation in the United States of decision-making at the end of life. The findings were published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
For the study, 3,262 patients at five hospitals across the country were asked, "Would you be very willing, somewhat willing, somewhat unwilling, very unwilling, or would you be rather die than put up with living in a nursing home all the time?"
Twenty-six percent of the respondents said that they would be very willing or somewhat willing to live in a nursing home, and 37% said they would be somewhat or very unwilling to do so. Thirty percent said that they would rather die than live permanently in a nursing home, and 6% said they were undecided.
The study also found that patients’ families and doctors often misjudge the patients’ feelings about nursing home care. When asked if a patient would be willing to live permanently in a nursing home, family members were correct 35% of the time, and doctors 18% of the time.